important points we [the
airline industry] are not,
whether it’s pilot experience or mitigating fatigue
or other things.
CC: What are some of the
aviation safety regulations
that you’re currently working on?
CS: Certainly I’m an
advocate for the safety of
the traveling public, and they really have very
few advocates when you think about it. I think
one of the most effective groups of people that
are doing some of the same things that I’m
doing is the families of the victims of the
February 2009 Buffalo crash of Continental
Connection Colgan Air [Flight] 3407.
Their flight was just about a month after
ours and had a different outcome and claimed
50 lives— 49 on the airplane and one person
whose house was struck by the wreckage.
There were a lot of problems with what led up
to that, systemic and individual problems.
It’s largely due to their efforts that the
Congress in 2010 passed and the president
signed aviation acts that really led to great
improvements in safety and pilot experience
and pilot records and training and others.
And so I’ve been working with them to try to
CC: What have you learned from your experience, and Flight 1549, that people can apply to
their own lives?
CS: It all starts with core values, with having
real reasons why we need
to do what we need to do.
I think often in our lives
and in work there is the
emphasis on what we do
and how we do it. That’s
always important, but we
shouldn’t forget how
important the why is also.
I think it helps to motivate
us. To understand why we
do what we do. The why,
the what and the how are
I think the why is
important … in helping us
to chart a course when
Chesley Sullenberger’s ;rst ;ight
in a military jet at the United
States Air Force Academy.
something unforeseen happens—when it’s
something we haven’t trained for, something
we haven’t seen before. Having a deep understanding of why we do what we do helps us to
set clear priorities. And that’s a good example
of what we did on our flight. We’d never
trained for this situation. In our flight simulators you can’t practice water landings. The
only training we’d ever gotten for a water landing was in a classroom discussion. So what we
were able to quickly do was to take what we
did know, adapt it and then apply that in a
new way to solve, in 208 seconds, this problem we’d never seen before and get it right the
first time, never having done it before.
CC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CS: I would say, in spite of all the things that
have happened to my family in the last seven
and a half years, the thing that Lorrie and I
are the most proud about is our two now-adult daughters. They’re 23 and 21, and we’re
so proud of the people they’ve become. They
are good citizens. And we need more good
citizens these days, people who feel a sense of
It seems as though in our modern, popular culture we have focused on such trivial
things. I think we need to focus on people
who actually accomplish something. One of
the responsibilities of a leader is to put their
ego in check, to master their ego and to do
things not for their own needs, but for the
greater good for the long term and not just for
the next quarter’s results. In spite of what
some say in this often winner-take-all world,
I think there really are things that we owe to
each other as citizens. And we shouldn’t forget that. C
The Sullenbergers with
President Barack and
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 35
“”It’s a reminder that when we work together there’s little we cannot accomplish.
how they will remember it, so it was really
important that the movie be as historically
accurate as they could make it. It’s definitely a
movie; it’s not a documentary.
CC: Was it hard to let go of little details that
weren’t 100 percent accurate?
CS: Yes. I have also said that when you give
someone the rights to tell your life story it’s
tantamount to handing them the keys and
watching them drive away with it. It turns out
that Clint Eastwood’s a good driver.
CC: What is it about flying that called to you?
CS: By the time I was 5 I knew I wanted to
fly, and I never wavered. I never had a plan B.
And looking back on it, I think there are two
things about it that really fascinated me. First
is the freedom of it. You’re literally cutting the
bounds with earth. You’re floating above the
planet, and even at low altitudes, just a few
thousand feet, it changes your perspective. It
changes your view of the world.
And I think the second thing is that it’s a
sense of mastery. So in addition to the sense
of freedom, there’s a sense of mastery. Mastery
of the machine, mastery of the craft, mastery
of yourself in handling whatever may come.
CC: Do you think that being a pilot is a calling?
CS: Yes. Absolutely. When I talk to audiences
of aviators, I use that word. I say that when we
as pilots entered this noble profession of airline piloting that I consider a calling, we
essentially make a tacit promise to all our
future passengers that we will do the very best
for them that we know how to do. And [we
should] not just think that just because a lot of
passengers haven’t perished it means that
we’re doing everything right, because in