When Captain Chesley Sullenberger's Airbus A320 was struck by a flock of kamikaze geese on January 15, 2009, he had only moments to decide where to land his disabled aircraft. As we all know, Sully chose the Hudson River, and touched down so smoothly and flawlessly in the icy water that it actually looked kind of enjoyable. But, actually, he could have just gone back to La Guardia Airport, according to the final report of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Pilots who used simulators to recreate the accident — including suddenly losing both engines after sucking in birds at 2,500 feet — repeatedly managed to safely land their virtual airliners at La Guardia.
So why did Sully forgo an airport, which is usually considered an optimal location for landing a large plane, for a river, which is not?
Through a spokesman, Mr. Sullenberger declined to comment. In his own book, published last year, the captain recalled briefly considering coasting over densely populated areas to turn back toward LaGuardia. But "I had to be certain we could make it," he wrote, because "it would rule out every other option" and could kill "who knows how many people on the ground."
Suuure, Sully. Trying not to kill innocent people, right? Uh-huh. Are you sure it wasn't because a boring old runway landing just wouldn't capture the nation's attention quite so profoundly? Yeah, you still would have been praised for your quick thinking. You still would have joined the ranks of luminaries like Mickey Rooney and received a key to the city. But would anyone have paid you millions of dollars to write a book of poetry? Would you still be having "rock-star sex" with your surprisingly hot wife? Would you ever have had the opportunity to stand next to Tom Hanks in a tuxedo? We doubt it, Sully. We doubt it.