Back to Squawk list
  • 17

Crash Investigators Pan Their Casting as Villains in ‘Sully’

In promotional clips for the movie “Sully,” which portrays the so-called Miracle on the Hudson water landing of a jetliner in 2009, there is little doubt about who the villains are: the accident investigators hounding the pilot after his splashdown. That’s news to the actual investigators at the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, who gave Captain Chesley Sullenberger high marks in their accident report and credited his quick action that saved lives. ( More...

Sort type: [Top] [Newest]

Wilfred Taylor 16
Hope this isn't a duplicate...
Anyone remember the British Airlines [BA] B777 crash at Gatwick a year prior to this accident?
The B777 Aircraft had departed China [Beijing?] and flown one of the coldest routes ever… but flight data confirmed the flight crew made appropriate adjustments and met the intent of the flight manual for these conditions. Copilot was flying the approach, pilot acting as copilot; when the engines failed to respond to ‘throttle-up’ command the aircraft crashed short on the grassy threshold [also, no loss of life].
The subsequent BA, Rolls Royce, Boeing and British Air Investigation folks began to immediately question and crucify the crew for inappropriate actions… especially pilot not taking controls at the last second and mismanagement of airframe temperature [hence extreme cold fuel temperature] in flight, … etc. This underhanded treatment, thru direct comments and innuendo before the facts were in, destroyed the reputations of the traumatized pilots and killed their careers. Crews even refused to fly with them.
When the investigation was completed, it was discovered that Rolls Royce design and certification of their B777 system for cold weather operations failed to identify the threat of freezing fuel in the condition experienced by this crew. When a slow extremely-cold fuel flow [engine idle] was suddenly ‘accelerated’ due to thrust demands, the ‘venturi-effect’ thru the fuel inlets created a low-pressure zone that also reduced the fuel temperature instantly. At this point the jet-fuel froze [moisture and fuel ice] at the pump inlets blocking them and flaming-out the engines. Compounding the problem was questionable Chinese fuel which may, or may-not, have met the rigorous requirements for extreme low temperature operations [-70F]… IE may not have complied with requirement to be virtually moisture free.
When the Airbus A320 ditched in the Hudson, there was another ‘rush-to-judgment’ by airline, engine, FAA and NTSB authorities that was aimed squarely at the traumatized crew, Sully and copilot(?).
The two BA pilots from the B777 immediately contacted ALPA and explained in excruciating detail how they were beaten-up, publicly and privately [innuendo, etc] for their accident… and how after it was all over, and the real cause defined, and their cockpit actions were exonerated as ‘professional crew airmanship/coordination’, a simple grudging/non-apology was issued clearing them of all negligence… but their reputations were already stained forever. The BA crew strongly recommended ALPA stand firmly behind the A320 crew as making the best possible judgment in the few seconds they had to respond to the crisis… over the hostile landscape of NY City. Also, In the A320 event, it became evident, after deep inspection of both bird-damaged engines, that there was truly no hope for a successful divert to a nearby runway. This was proven in several simulations with the true/realistic engine condition was added to the sim scenario… not the imagined scenario used initially that one engine was still producing good-enough thrust for a divert.
In both cases, these crews faced the inevitable hostile/cold inquiries when ‘something went wrong that shouldn’t have gone wrong’… and manufacturer’s [engine/airframe] and airlines reputations are up for critical/public examination. As a former USAF mishap investigator, I can understand how the NTSB guys undoubtedly/unintentionally ‘fed’ the engine, airframe and airlines investigators with confidential speculation, that later proved wrong based on the cold-hard facts.
Jim Goldfuss 9
Thank you WIlfred. A pilot has just a split second in time of crisis to make a decision. In the case of the A320, while they "claim" he could have made the field, if he had fallen short, he would have wound up in a populated area (if very short) or went down into the ALS at approach end of 22, which would have been devastating and definitely caused lives. He decided he couldn't make it based on what he saw and felt, and continued working the problem until splashdown. He didnt stop to second guess his decision - and all of that is why everyone survived.
David Medders 3
He might have made the field with an immediate turn, but that is NOT how we train. Simulator training builds in pilots an expectation that we can solve a problem as long we do not react stupidly, making things worse. In other words, we are taught to analyze before reacting to a systems problem. Sully's failure looked initially like a single engine failure -- one of the most practiced failures in aviation: fly the airplane, run the engine shutdown and single-engine approach and landing checklists, go find maintenance. The expectation of success is ingrained.

[This poster has been suspended.]

lynx318 3
Are you still breathing, I thought they turned off your life support!

[This poster has been suspended.]

lynx318 2
Also while I do agree on some of your critique, it's how lay it on thick that's annoying to all here. Simple truth, movie is ignorant of the facts, total work of fiction to create a drama. Best way to deal with it, don't put bums on seats watching the drivel. All said in a couple of simple lines.

[This poster has been suspended.]

lynx318 2
Unless you are blind the topic of this post is not the aircraft aspect but the human one, what you seem to be avoiding, probably stepping outside your comfort zone. The movie is blatantly villianising pilot and NTSB to sell a movie. Something I'd abhor when it is certainly NOT the truth! The plane has a mechanical failure, the pilot water lands it without loss of life, NTSB investigate, pilot not at fault for plane failing, why try and destroy their character in this vulgar piece of celluloid?
lynx318 2
How bout not acting like a lawyer? Not a pilot myself, can't be due to poor health, always wanted to fly helicopters. But just cause I can't be pilot, only a passenger, does that mean I can't enjoy aircraft and communicating with like minded individuals. Or are you going to make another defamatory comment to someone here? Ever wonder why you get so many down votes??

[This poster has been suspended.]

lynx318 2
And with that timed and dated court transcript you prove my point!!

[This poster has been suspended.]

lynx318 2
Witty comeback, how many years of law school did you waste to think of that one?
David Barnes 5
Excellent points, but one small nit to pick. The incident you reference was at Heathrow, not Gatwick.
Highflyer1950 2
If I remember the cold fuel is passed through the engine hot oil exchanger and warmed up to above freezing. Jet A-1 ( and I always get Jet A-1 in China) has a freeze point around -47 and after 8 or so hours at -68 you watch the tank temps drop. If it gets down to -42 or so we either descend into warmer air or speed up or a combination of both. I think you are right about ice crystals forming at the inlet prior to the fuel reching the engine. Flying the polar routes do have their challenges.
charlie lange 6
Aviation movies are always wrong. Name one that accurately portrays flying.
Airplane! the movie was dead on! The sequel too...I swear.... :)

Just remember guys, Flying a plane is no different from riding a bicycle; it's just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes. -Kramer
Nathan Tardif 1
Controller: "I know but this guy has no flying experience at all. He's a menace to himself and everything else in the air... yes, birds too."
lynx318 1
I always used playing cards myself, imagine them pegged to the Turbine blades....and don't call me Shurley!
joel wiley 5
30 seconds over Tokyo?
charlie lange 3
Yah I was thinking of the Airport series or the 232 movie . Just schmaltzy.
jmilleratp 3
I take offense to that! "Airport 1975" was VERY accurate! ;-)
AWAAlum 2
Yeah, but those films were strictly for grins. Nothing in them was nor meant to be factual.
Marty Miller 1
My favorite the Flight of the Phoenix.
One that accurately portrays flying? I'll give you two:

16 Right: The Romance of Flying. Centered around the love of flying and the Van Nuys Airport.

Living in the Age of Airplanes. Produced by the same person who produced 16 Right, narrated by Harrison Ford. topic: the history of airplanes, and how the invention of it has revolutionized the world, and conveys the wonder of flying.
chalet 5
Those are not pictures, they are documentaries which is exactly what I look for, not the Hollywood crap.
Twelve O'clock High?
charles..I think "accurately" and flying as far as movies are concerned is not even on the radar!lets see,im trying to remember a list of movies in, around or about airplanes or aviation..what about the "oldie" with john wayne, "the high and the mighty"?? (1950's) jokingly you can say,"airport 1 and airport 2",or for the military pilots,"top gun" with tom crusie and friends,and of course "air force 1 ' with harrison ford!!lets see..there was also "snakes on a plane",and one a long time ago made for tv that I cannot remember the name of where the cargo on a 747 was some "spooky" ancient relic that caused the usual panic on the 747!!!if you want really funny and bizarre,how about that 70's movie "airplane"?? oh gosh,the list does go on and on and you are right about accurately portraying the joys of flying!!
François VG 1
is both accurate and excellent in my humble pilot's opinion.
lynx318 1
"Blue Thunder" the helicopter sequences in it were soooo accurate, cough, cough, choking on my, cough, own sarcasm!,
Marty Martino 2
There's alway "Airwolf" then (typed with a sly grin).
namotlagh 1
"Flight" with Denzel Washington. I'm pretty sure it's spot on.
David Medders 2
Good thing Denzel's airplane had the inverted fuel and oil system options!
Otniel Ocampo 1
Only that in the real incident that movie was based on....Every one dies!!!
Michael Osmers -1
And you base your opinion on what? Not funny IMHO if that was your intent.
joel wiley 12
For pity sake, it's entertainment. If there is a hero, the storyline needs a nemesis for contrast. Who was the screenwriter going to use, the geese?
Geese, that sounds amazing, can the climax be a knife fight on top of the tower.
namotlagh 11
Now we're talking. Geese + knife fight = awesome action movie I'd like to see.
dnorthern 10
Snakes. Don't forget the snakes.
How about some sharks with frickin laser beams attached to their heads? Could we get some of those, please? LOL!
chalet 4
And why not throwing in for good measure some 400 tarantulas along with some Black Widows and a few sidewinders (the reptiles not the AIM9s of course).......... or would this be a bit too much.
joel wiley 7
Make real scary, throw in a lawyer
a couple of Badger, 4 Tasmanian Devils and 5 Spitting Cobras in the Cockpit.
chalet 1
And then ask Hollywood to send the same "artists" of Air Force One to come and rescue these poor souls.
lynx318 2
Snerk, we certainly know of one of those here! Surprised he hasn't shown up yet? (Oops, I,m jinxing it!)
Check the "Downvoted" lines.
lynx318 2
Oh god the heartlessman esq is here again!
Hmmm! Know any?
dnorthern 4
Hero or legend? Does it realty matter?

He was an ordinary pilot who faced an unordinary situation and acted in an extraordinary manner that colaced experience, training, and common sense into an incredible outcome.

I guess if you were a passenger on the plane or a passenger's loved one, he is a hero. For the rest of us we can hope that the pilots of the plane we ride in have similar capability and outcome should a similar problem arise.
chalet 2
Sully's feat speaks volumes of the quality of the air transportation in the US, there must be thousands like him out there, praise the Lord.
dnorthern 1
Cecil Clark 7
Since when does anyone in Hollyweird concern themselves with "facts" and "truth" about anything?
Pilots who " have survived " an accident investigation would understand the stress the investigaots are putting on them.
But who can blame NTSB for doing a job which has brought Commercial Aviation to the highest level of safety in the history of transportation. (Of course , they are not the only ones in the industry)
Let's wait to see those pictures in there context .....
David... Yes, Heathrow, NOT Gatwick. DANG fingers... they work faster than my brain sometimes!
Charles Peele 2
If anyone of y'all ever tred in his shoes---wonder how hyperbolically verbal you might be? Nuff said! From "untruthful Hollywood" to calling Clint Eastwood a "Loon"---seems the message got lost in Sully's grand exploit!...............CTP
chalet 2
Indeed, Hollywood would only understand making money regardless whether they twist facts to make the movies more "saleable". Really awful in general but will hold judgement of Sully after I watch it.
Otniel Ocampo 2
The sad part is that we keep encouraging the behavior by going and watching the movies being put out!!! Like giving away to your 3 Years old tantrum and then wondering why the damn child does not behave...LOL!!!
On second thought, I saw one on the Lifetime Network a couple of days ago. "Collision Course" Cold, stark, pure fantasy. Everybody lives except the pilot, who was electrocuted by the Autopilot switch.
You want a legend, read up on William Beebe. That man is a real pilot!!!
having not seen the movie as of yet, I cannot comment on its accuracy as to the actual event ,nor captain sullenbergers book..i will say,however, that both he and tom hanks appeared on jimmy kimmel last night and it was quite entertaining..tom hanks did make the comment that what surprised him in his research and playing sullenberger were the events and investigation after the water landing..i think you can rest assured the ntsb did not take any of the events lightly as eventually, they get to the issues causing any crash..clint eastwood and the others involved in making the movie probably felt the need to add a bit more "drama"in the characters, as they always do,or it would have been more of a doumetary,rather than a movie!
andromeda07 1
I suspect Clint Eastwood is also trying to make the government look bad when in fact the NTSB's work is what has made aviation so extraordinarily safe and successful.
Wow ! next time you get a chance to try this, and complete your checklist, let us all know from the other side. Why list your experience, look at his and also his continual study of safety, CRM, incidents/accidents. sorry but there are plenty of idiots flying commercially & militarily. Not you of course. But with that said, he never would accept being called a hero, just doing his job. I'm talking about the man... not the movie. And if I refer to him as a Legend, or hero, or Sir Capt. Sully or anyone else, what's it to you? It's pretty obvious it's your small ego, or large image of who you are, and we you need to find fault or correct everyone. People close to you must be very tired of it.
sorry withdraw - LEGEND in life long study, practice, and PROVED practical experience ! even before the water landing! Geez... you probably have more hours than him too.
Roy Hunte 0
Pretty nifty twist there... That man is a legend.
joel wiley 1
noun: legend; plural noun: legends
1. a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated.
"the legend of King Arthur"
2. an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field.
"the man was a living legend"
adjective: legend
1. very well known.
"his speed and ferocity in attack were legend"

As well known as Cpt. Sullenberger is, I think he fits definition 2.
Whether you agree or disagree with the attention and accolades given are appropriate, that is a matter of personal opinion.

As for the movie, I'll wait for Netflix.
Roy Hunte 1
Thanks Joel.
Legend? Far from that!!!
allench1 3
I agree, Legend is a little strong. I do give him credit for what he accomplished by all his years in the seat along with training but in the end every pilot must use the best judgement for his or her situation.
Jim Goldfuss 3
If you truly understood the complexity of what he did, particularly in those last 100', you would not be quick to dismiss. From one pilot to another - I will consider him legend and hope and aspire to have even half the ability he demonstrated, which would be more than adequate.
linbb -2
And you could do better in that situation? Doubt it unless you have been close and brought it home without any loss of life.

Known pilots who did what was needed no injurys resulted from it. In one case there were no wings but all were ok.

That fellow was at the time of his death the oldest commercial active pilot in the US

Clayton Scott or Scotty as he was known.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Kells Moore 16
On January 15th 2009, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger ditched his crippled A320 into the Hudson River in a controlled manner and saved all 155 passengers and crew. Not only was this the first such occurrence in the A320, but it was also the ONLY SUCH INCIDENT IN RECENT HISTORY WITH A 100% SURVIVAL RATE.

You tell me which procedures he could have followed to improve the outcome.

Get your facts straight as well as your "ultra-inflated ego".
Could've followed the not using cellphone procedure during taxi and climbout procedure...
Some tidbits are conveniently left out...
Oops, the feline just came out the bag...

[This poster has been suspended.]

Kells Moore 2
ATP or not, I've got an A320 QRH right in front of me and it seems the necessary procedures were in fact followed. If Mr. Namot is referring to the extinction of galley power and the activation of the ditch switch, well what can I say? By the time the crew was able to completely diagnose the situation, time had run out and there was simply no other alternative to that river. At least considering this man "knew his limitations". He knew he couldn't have made it back to LaGuardia nor Teterboro, as simulations proved conclusively.

I'm also still having a hard time figuring out what could be defined as a success if a 100 percent survival rate is not? Please, fill me in.

Also note that Mr Namot's post nor mine ever made any mention on the NTSB being "evil-mean-spirited". As you pointed out, this was simply a dramatic element added to the movie that I personally have no problem with. The movie may not be 100% accurate, but it is 90% accurate.

I apologize but one simply cannot deny the fact that Chesley B. Sullenberger is in fact a legend...
allench1 9
there is a big difference between proper procedure and real time action. You have stepped on a mine field as you nor I were in his seat. It would be very unlikely that he could have turned back with "0" thrust and made the runway from the loss of altitude in doing a 180 degree turn. He knew he could make the Hudson. Proof is in the pudding.
AWAAlum 4
Haven't you ever gone to see a movie just for the pure entertainment of it? Why make it a political statement? The story itself has value.
linbb 9
You really think that what he did came from going to some av school, fly airliners and go home?

Get real you are either not a pilot or have very little experience doing so.

He reacted as needed to do what he did and to do so drew from many hours not flying a bus but from the other AC he flew. It takes more than punching some buttons and flying with a glass cockpit to make a landing like he did.

One that knows does what he did with little or no communication just doing what he learned
over the years in many types of AC.
namotlagh -6

Get an education, fly in combat, then maybe you can post something intelligent.
Roy Hunte 3
Would like to know what happens when you have engine trouble in a combat aircraft. You can 'bang out' and you have no pax to worry about. Whereas Sully had no option but to try the best place, the Hudson. He couldn't eject like a combat pilot and he had the pax on his mind to save. Keep your acidic comments to yourself. Combat flying is vastly different to commercial aviation.
namotlagh -2
Please tell me more about combat flying and commercial aviation. Last time I checked, my KC-135 doesn't have ejection seats.
Brian Moseley 5
Please tell me more about how much combat you see in your KC-135.
chalet 2
Sue Boeing
Larry Martin -8
Well despite how much I like Tom Hanks, I wont go near anything Clint Eastwood touches. The man is a loon.
chalet 1
Did not you like his talk to empty chairs at the GOPeers convention, that alone won him the Razzies prize.


Don't have an account? Register now (free) for customized features, flight alerts, and more!
This website uses cookies. By using and further navigating this website, you accept this.
Did you know that FlightAware flight tracking is supported by advertising?
You can help us keep FlightAware free by allowing ads from We work hard to keep our advertising relevant and unobtrusive to create a great experience. It's quick and easy to whitelist ads on FlightAware or please consider our premium accounts.