Photo: Steven Day / AP
Calling the ditching of US Airways flight 1549 a miracle is an affront of the highest order to the professionalism of Captain Chesley Sullenberger, co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles and the cabin crew of US1549. The combination of Sullenberger's vast experience and quick thinking, a lifetime of training, cool heads and dumb luck led to a successful water landing of what might well have been a flying coffin for 155 people.
The pilot assessed the situation quickly, declared an emergency, made the decision to ditch, flew the plane, now a glider, dead-stick to the Hudson River. The flight crew successfully evacuated the aircraft in short order. They all did their jobs exactly as they were trained. Another time, another flight, a different aircraft, this might have ended much worse for everyone. If the A320 had broken amidships, there might well be a hundred funerals being planned. Is the intact airframe a result of superior Airbus engineering or Sullenberger's skill as a pilot? Both? Maybe. Hard to say. We'll never know, but I'm weighting my judgement towards the pilot.
Captain Sullenberger's entire life revolves around flying and safety. He has over 40 years of flying experience. He has been the safety chairman of the Airline Pilots Association. He co-authored a paper with NASA scientists on "error-inducing contexts" in aviation. His company, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., consults with any number of industries on recognizing and reducing risk exposure. Read his resume. The guy is a beacon of competence.
Miracle? Go sell crazy somewhere else. If a professional doing his job extremely well qualifies as a "miracle", either we've set the bar very low indeed, or we wouldn't recognize professionalism and competence if they kicked us in the head.