A national hero, a quick thinker and an extremely skilled pilot. On January 15th, 2009, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 hit a flock of geese and both plane engines failed. Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survived the harrowing ordeal, and Sullenberger become a national hero in the eyes of both the public and the media.

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Clint Eastwood’s new biographical drama film Sully starring Tom Hanks takes a deep look into the almost unknown aftermath of the emergency landing of Flight 1549 and the investigations that followed. Soon after being hailed a hero for saving all 155 lives on board the ill-fated flight Sullenberger learns that tests conducted for the National Transportation Safety Board suggest that the left engine was simply idled when the birds were struck, and was not completely disabled as Sullenberger claimed.In theory, this would have left Sullenberger with enough power to return to LaGuardia or land at Teterboro. Several flight simulations created from all available data of the incident also concluded that the plane could have been able to safely land at an airport even with both engines disabled. Sullenberger, however, maintained that he did not have enough time, speed or altitude to guide the plane to a safe landing at an airport.

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Sullenberger then realises that the NTSB is angling that the accident was due to pilot error which would effectively end his career. In a bid to save his reputation, Sully arranges to have the simulator pilots available for a live recreation at the public hearing on the accident. When both simulations end with successful landings, Sullenberger counters that the simulations are unrealistic without believable accounting for basic human reactions to the incident. When pressed on this, the inquiry board admits that the simulation pilots were allowed several practice sessions before being recorded and there was no time allowed for human reaction.

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With this in mind the inquiry board orders the simulation redone, but this time allowing time for human reaction. This time the simulations show that the plane would not have made it back to LaGuardia  or to Teterboro. Both would have resulted in non-survivable crashes. With this evidence, the board concludes, that Flight 1549 was an unavoidable accident, and that Sullenberger performed the best possible actions under the circumstances to save lives. (Hero status reinstated!)

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Sully is a powerful and inspiring story about bravery, heroism and survival. It definitely left me with a tear in my eye and goose bumps on my arms. What an incredible story! 4 out of 5 Stars! Now Showing.

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Georgia Dawes

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