Thursday, January 15, 2009

To the Captain of US Airways Flight 1549: Way to go, Sully!

Chesley B. 'Sully' Sullenberger, IIIMeet Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III, reported to have been the captain who successfully ditched a US Airways A320 in the Hudson River earlier today, Jan. 15, 2009. The aircraft apparently remained intact, and all 155 souls on board survived and were rescued.

The aircraft, operating as US Airways Flight 1549, had just departed New York 's LaGuardia airport en route to Charlotte, NC, when it was said to have suffered multiple bird strikes. The aircraft subsequently lost power to both engines, and the captain elected to ditch the aircraft, landing on the surface of the Hudson River.

Normally I do not identify crew members involved in aircraft accidents or safety incidents unless and until they are first officially identified either by their employers, government officials, or family members. In this case, I have not yet seen Capt. Sullenberger officially identified by either US Airways or any official agency, however several news reports, including this one on MSNBC, quote his wife, confirming that he was indeed the pilot in command of US Airways Flight 1549.

While we all will have to wait for the NTSB report before we know the details about how that A320 ended up in the Hudson River today, I doubt anyone will dispute the fact that putting it down there safely, with no loss of life and very few injuries to those on board, entailed a superb piece of airmanship on the part of Capt. Sullenberger and his (as yet un-named) co-pilot. * [EDIT: see update below.]

Way to go, Sully!! All of us in the aviation community are very proud of you and your entire crew.

Apparently Capt. Sullenberger has had a rich career. In addition to flying for US Airways, he also has a consulting business called Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. (SRM). The company website offers this profile of his credentials:
Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III is a captain for a major U.S. airline with over 40 years of flying experience. A former U.S. Air Force (USAF) fighter pilot, he has served as an instructor and Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) safety chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member. He has participated in several USAF and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigations. His ALPA safety work led to the development of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular. Working with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists, he coauthored a paper on error inducing contexts in aviation. He was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Crew Resource Management (CRM) course used at his airline and has taught the course to hundreds of his colleagues.

Sully is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy (B.S.), Purdue University (M.S.) and the University of Northern Colorado (M.A.). He was a speaker on two panels at the High Reliability Organizations (HRO) 2007 International Conference in Deauville, France May 29-31, 2007. He has just been named a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.
If this overview doesn't satisfy your curiosity, this expanded version is posted on the SRM website: Sullenberger Profile - 3-page 'Word' file

UPDATE Jan. 16, 2009: The first officer on US Airways Flight 1549 has been identified by his family as Jeffrey Skiles, 49. read about him here: Wis. co-pilot on crashed plane OK - Chicago Tribune, Jan. 16, 2009

[Photo Source]

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.