Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Role Model: Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger

On 15 Jan 2009, a US Airline Airbus 320 took off from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport heading for Charlotte, North Carolina.

Less than three minutes into the flight, the Airbus flew right into a flock of migrating Canada geese.  The birds slammed into the engines, instantly knocking out both power plants.

Suddenly, the airliner with 155 people on board was flying low without power over New York City skyscrapers. 

The pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger felt the pressure instantly in his body: “It was the most sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, like falling through the floor.”

Capt Sully quickly sized up the situation and took charge. His first thought was empowering – he focused his thoughts on his intention to save lives: “I had to be certain we could make it.”

Weighing his options quickly, Capt Sully decided that his best chance was to ditch the engineless plane in the Hudson River. Capt Sully recalled: “I quickly determined that we were at too low an altitude, at too low air speed, and therefore we didn’t have enough energy to return to LaGuardia.”

Capt Sully visualized his desired outcome and broadcasted his intention: “We’re gonna be in the Hudson”.

In a calm voice which reflected Capt Sully’s mastery over his emotions he announced over the intercom: “Brace for impact because we are going down”.

In the state of being Centered, Open, Aware, Connected, and Holding it all together (COACH state) Capt Sully masterfully lined the engineless Airbus with the Hubson River, and executed a perfect ditching that kept the airplane intact, saving the lives of everyone on board.

The “Miracle on the Hudson” was possible only because Capt Scully was at his peak performance – playing in the Zone at the moment of truth.

It was critical that the airplane was perfectly level when it touched water. Had any one of its wing tips hit the water first, the aircraft would cartwheel, and it would all end disastrously. "I needed the wings exactly level at touchdown. I needed to make the rate of descent survivable. I needed to touch down at a nose-up attitude. And I needed to touch down just above our minimum flying speed. And all those needed to occur simultaneously,"

As it turned out, Capt Scully laid the stricken Airbus down so gently that one passenger described the bump he felt “wasn’t a whole lot more then a rear end (car collision)…”

Capt Sully acted with conviction throughout the entire episode, carrying out his duties to the last detail. After laying the Airbus on the water, Capt Sully coolly walked the aisle of the airplane twice to make sure that all the passengers were off the plane before he left the aircraft. 

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