Sully: Reflections on the movie

I recommend Sully if you haven’t seen it yet.

In 2009, Chesley Sullenberger’s US Airways airbus lost both engines, forcing him to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River. All onboard survived.

Starring Tom Hanks and direct by Clint Eastwood, the movie is primarily a character study with the FAA investigation as the backdrop. The rest of this post is a spoiler, so avert your eyes if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

There are two things in this movie that struck me. Landing a plane in the Hudson was a risky move. No one died, but people could have. Why didn’t Sully just return to the airport? The FAA wanted to know.

The FAA’s computer simulations showed that Sully could have safely landed the plane on the runway. Sully disagreed, and under immense pressure proved his case.

Ultimately, Sully is a movie about being human. Computer simulations are simplified mathematical models of real world events. These simulations are to real life what Plato’s cave shadows are to reality itself.

Sully pointed out that he had four decades of flying experience. He knew what the situation was, and what course of action would maximize the chance of saving lives. A computer generated cartoon doesn’t know that.

In the digital age, this is an observation we must remember not to forget.

Sully’s humanity is also seen in his discomfort with being called a hero.

Yes, he did something tremendous. But the hero narrative falsely portrays heros as acting alone. Sully is quick to point out that it wasn’t just him. There was the crew – the co-pilot and flight attendants. There were the passengers who cooperated as they fled the plane. There were the air traffic controllers. And there are the first responders, the Coast Guard, the NYPD, and others.

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Author: Dave DuBay

Dave is a social worker from Phoenix, Arizona. He blogs at thepaintedporch.net. He's also at twitter.com/Dave_DuBay.

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