This week was the 4th anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson River. Flashback to January 15, 2009: US Airways flight 1549 lost its engines, had no thrust, was rapidly declining in altitude, and was now just a few hundred feet above land. Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger phoned air traffic control requesting an emergency landing, with few options remaining as he approached New York City.
His many thousands of hours of piloting never prepared him for landing a plane on a narrow river as the Hudson, flanked by the skyscrapers and crowded buildings of Manhattan and New Jersey. He did not practice this maneuver in his pilot graduate courses or in his flight school drills. This type of landing was never drilled using a plane smaller than the Airbus A320. But here he was, with 155 people on board, knowing if he didn’t go 1 for 1 and bat 1,000 then all on board could be dead, as well as Sully and his co-pilot.
He kept his cool, engineered his plane dead center for the Hudson, and miraculously he succeeded. Those famous words, “Brace for impact” were heard thousands of times on replays of his leadership and success. A new American folk hero was born. Sully was the conversation everywhere. His heroic act resonated around the globe.
My office on the 53rd floor of One Penn Plaza, NYC (34th Street) has a direct view of the Hudson, exactly where Sully brought down the plane. Each morning I start my day looking out at the Hudson and surrounding skyscrapers, right where the plane went down. Knowing what took place that day four years ago, and the heroic acts and sharp thinking that ensued, fosters an energy of inspiration and positivity for me.
In some ways I draw a parallel between the Miracle on the Hudson situation to the many challenges we face as entrepreneurs. However, I am not bold enough to say that any challenge I ever had comes close to what Sully faced. My successes may generate financial rewards and professional satisfaction. Sully’s success saved 155 lives and put the Miracle on the Hudson in our history books forever.
This amazing landing not only has a well-deserved place in American history but also serves as a lesson for all people, especially entrepreneurs. Sully showed that by mastering the basics, continuing his education throughout his career, and remaining calm under adverse conditions that the result can be miraculously successful.