Flight 1549

"A Coloful Morning" (Hudson River, NYC)
“A Colorful Morning” (Hudson River, NYC)

By Jenellie Ricketts

155 was what Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger repeated like a broken record, his heart pounded in his chest. 155, the number of passengers on board flight 1549. On January 15, 2009 about 100 seconds into the flight, a flock of Canada geese struck both engines of the plane causing them to lose thrust; about another 180 seconds later, Captain Sully landed the plane on the Hudson River. It was a routine flight from New York to Charlotte, NC that turned into the international phenomenon we all know as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” Clint Eastwood (director), Tom Hanks (Sully), Aaron Eckhart (First Officer), and Patch Darragh (Air Traffic Controller) created an extremely vivid depiction of the true story with the movie “Sully.” The movie itself was a mix between the aftermath, flashbacks of the “crash,” and flashbacks of Sully’s early flying days.

The first thing I noticed was Eastwood’s attention to detail.  Seeing as he had been in an airplane crash himself when he was 19, he could relate and use his own past experiences to extract raw emotion from the actors. The cast was perfect for these roles, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart spoke with Sully Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles about their conversations in the cockpit, and their emotions before, during, and after the flight to better illustrate the actual event. The entire scene with the Air Traffic Controller was word for word, which was played by Patch Darragh, who evidently invested a lot of emotion into his role because all of the people around me in the theater were crying; it shows the state of trauma that the actual Air Traffic Controller, Patrick Harten, went through when he thought that he had just directed 155 people to their death and the relief he felt when he found out that they landed on the Hudson River and lived; this recording can be found on YouTube. All of the actors in this movie delivered all the emotion they possibly could. It is obvious that they articulated and intensified every word because it was and is important that this story is told.

The psychoanalytical approach of the movie was demonstrated through the visuals. The movie started out with a nightmare, where Sully followed directions and turned back to LaGuardia International Airport and ended up crashing into a building in the city, killing everyone on board and thousands in that area. Another version of this approach was him standing in front of a window in the city watching the plane he was flying crash into a building. That scenario continued to plague his thoughts and dreams, so did a flashback of when he was in the air force and the engine failed in the aircraft he was in with his partner, and just like flight 1549, he was calm and eyeballed his surroundings.  They made it safely back to the runway. Sully continued to have internal battles about whether he could have killed all those people, or if he did the right thing by landing on the water.

Viewers feel a sense of second hand anxiety when they begin the re-enactment of the crash. It’s kind of like patiently waiting for a heart attack to happen. What surprised me the most was the level of confidence and poise the entire flight crew handled the situation with. For all of us in the theater, watching a mother cling to her months old child who was startled by people panicking around them, or hearing a father scream for his son in fear that he didn’t make it off the plane, felt like a closed fist around our hearts. Everyone held their breath hoping they would survive even though we already knew the outcome. I have to reiterate the captivating beauty of the visuals, the scene with everyone coming out of the plane onto the wings, a flight attendant with frost bitten feet, two passengers, a man and a woman, having panic attacks and jumping into the freezing cold river trying to swim back to land. After the event, the flight crew and passengers met up in Charlotte. Surviving wives brought their husbands and children and vice versa. They thanked the flight crew repeatedly and told them how grateful they are to be alive because of them; this video can be found on YouTube.

Soul: The spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal. “155 souls, that’s the number,” Sully said. He was responsible for all of them. It was his job to take them safely from point A to point B. He doesn’t like the word ¨hero¨ because he doesn’t feel like one. He says he just looked for the most viable alternative to an airport runway. In the eyes of all the passengers he is a hero; 155, the number of people that boarded the flight, 155, the number of people that “crashed,” 155, the number of people that lived.

Submitted for ENG 101 Composition, Fall 2016.  Assignment: Evaluation
Instructor: Alexa Carey
Instructor Comments:

Photo credit: “A Colorful Morning” by J J.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

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