Did you know when pilots are in training, there are no simulators that offer a water-landing scenario? And, while we’re throwing around aeroplane facts, did you know no pilot in modern aviation history has successfully landed in water? Well, except Captain Chelsey Sullenberger, the pilot on 2009’s Flight 1549 which crashed into the Hudson River in New York City.
Now, Clint Eastwood has directed a film based on the event of January 15 2009, Tom Hanks dying his hair white-ish grey to play Sullenberger; the heralded pilot who glided his aircraft to safety after a flock of birds flew into the plane’s jets shutting down both engines. The plane, at 3200 feet in the sky, was struck shortly after take-off from La Guardia airport in New York en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. After that, there was complete silence; that is, no engines churning and the plane slowly falling back down to earth.
Credit: Instagram @imax.movies
Sullenberger (fondly known as Sully) and his first officer co-pilot Jefferey Skiles (played by Aaron Eckhart in the film) had to think quickly on where best to make an emergency landing in order to save the 155 cabin crew and passengers on board.
Air traffic controllers suggested turning back to La Guardia’s runway 13. Teterboro – an airport in New Jersey – was another option. Unfortunately, both weren’t feasible. “We may end up in the Hudson”, Sullenberger replied to air traffic control. In his decades of flying, never would the then-58-year-old imagine he’d ever utter those words.
Just missing the George Washington Bridge by 900 feet, Sullenberger eyed his target, a small boat so passengers could be pulled from the wreckage onto it quickly. “Then he had to calculate the projected glide path, and gin up a way to set the plane on the water at just the right angle, so the nose was up and neither one of the wings tipped,” reported NyMag. “If the nose or a wingtip hit the water as he approached, the plane could flip, spin out, or snap in two.”
Passengers landed safely in the river with minimal impact, 155 surviving. And while you may know how this plane crash ends, what you don’t know is the post traumatic stress Sullenberger experienced post-crash, the media frenzy and the investigation that threatened to destroy his reputation. Eastwood and Hanks make a phenomenal team to tell this extraordinary story and – ahead of Father’s Day – advanced screenings are scheduled in cinemas across the country.
The aftermath: A real-life image of passengers waiting on the wings of the plane to be rescued in the Hudson River in 2009
Credit: Instagram @milesflights
Sully is officially in Australian cinemas September 8.