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Sully's Sudden Withdrawal

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By Grant Davies

On this day in 2009, a US Airways plane made a successful landing to end one of the shortest “puddle jumper” flights of all time. The flight was quite a bit longer than Orville Wright’s first flight of 120 feet, and it landed in a puddle instead jumping over it, but why let a few details get in the way of a good story?

The flight was from NY to NY, or more correctly, from LaGuardia Airport to the Hudson River. The whole flight took only about six minutes from takeoff to touchdown, which was a tad shorter than scheduled. Its original destination was Kitty Hawk, where it all began in 1903. Okay, it was actually going to Charlotte, North Carolina, but it’s the same state and only about 350 miles away from Kitty Hawk, so again, let’s not let actual details get in the way.

Enough of the fooling around, you all know what happened that day, so let’s get to it.

Chesley Burnett Sullenberger , known to his friends (and everyone else in the world nowadays) as “Sully”, was the pilot of that flight and he accomplished one of the most remarkable feats of aviation ever recorded when he landed that plane safely in the Hudson River. The feat saved the lives of everyone on the flight and made Sully into a hero. Even today, very few people know how difficult the maneuver is and how many things could have gone wrong that would have led to a different outcome. Sully is a hero. But not for landing the plane.

Sully is a hero for the most mundane and under-appreciated reason of our day. He is a hero because he is competent. And not accidentally so. He spent his whole life in the pursuit of knowledge of his subject and the quiet, patient, practice of performing it well. Exceedingly well, as it turns out.

Here is what Sully had to say about what actually happened that morning

“One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”

Although Sully no longer flies a commercial airliner, he has continued his heroism to this day by continuing to pursue competence for himself and pass it on to others.

To celebrate that quiet accomplishment, hoist a few “tallboys” to competence and true heroism. But only drink enough to forget the faux heroes of Politics and Hollywood while still being able to remember that there are real heroes right here among us. Here’s to you Sully! And to Jeffery Skiles , your co-pilot. And all the others who dedicate themselves to doing their job right.

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