By Laura Kemp • 15 January 2022 • 14:58
On January 15 2009, the real story behind Tom Hanks’ movie ‘Sully’ happened on the Hudson River in New York City, when Captain Chesley Sullenberger miraculously landed US Airways Flight 1549 after both engines failed.
Captain Chesley Sullenberger, or ‘Sully’, was forced to land the plane on the Hudson River after it was struck by birds. Seven years later, the movie was made.
The 68-year-old now retired pilot, who served at US Airways for 30 years between 1980 and 2010, also served as an Air Force fighter pilot for the United States and attained the rank of Captain.
The incident become known as “The Miracle on the Hudson” and was over within six minutes.
Sully was piloting a US Airways plane heading for Seattle Washington which had departed from LaGuardia in New York City at 3:24pm.
Not long after taking off, a flock of Canada Geese struck the plane, causing it to lose power in both of its engines. Passengers reported hearing loud bangs and saw flames coming from the aircraft, sending them into a panic.
Bodies of the dead birds obscured the pilot’s view out of the windshield and Sully took control while his co-pilot, Jeffrey Skiles, tried in vain to restart the engines.
Following a discussion with Air Traffic Control about a potential emergency landing, Sully came to the realisation that the flight wouldn’t be able to make any of them, saying: “We can’t do it… we’re gonna be in the Hudson.”
During the emergency landing, the plane flew less than 900 feet above the George Washington Bridge.
Sully told crew and passengers to “brace for impact,” and, at 3:31pm, he landed the plane in the middle of the Hudson River.
Incredibly, despite flight attendants saying it was a “hard landing,” all 155 people onboard the plane survived. Five had serious injuries and many of them were treated for hypothermia.
Sullenberger told Newsweek: “We weren’t certain for many months after the investigation that we really had made the right decisions at every juncture and would ultimately be vindicated.”
“Most people don’t understand that part of the story.”
The same year, the National Transportation Safety Board, US congress and the Pilot’s Union all investigated the incident and the decision to land in the river rather than attempt to fly back to a nearby airport.
The movie starring Tom Hanks focuses on the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation. According to The Guardian, it is procedure for the NTSB to investigate all possible contributing factors to a crash.
In 2016, the organisation claimed that it had been portrayed in the wrong light in the movie.
Robert Benzon, who led the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation, said: “We’re not the KGB. We’re not the Gestapo.”
“We’re the guys with the white hats on. These guys were already national heroes. We weren’t out to embarrass anybody at all.”
Since retiring in 2010, Sully is now a best-selling author and the Aviation and Safety Expert on CBS news.
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Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features.
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