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Sully’s landing: more than good luck

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Capt. Chesley Sullenberger made his leadership clear when he landed a plane intact on the Hudson River in January, saving 155 lives.

While his safe water landing may not actually be the only one ever, Sullenberger is no stranger to firsts.

As a captain at US Airways, he was involved in the first crew resource management training course, which teaches teamwork and communication in high-pressure situations. His crew’s calm performance played a role in the rescue, as did the orderly passengers.

Because ditching planes after engine failure is not a normal part of pilots’ simulator training, the former Air Force fighter pilot and flight leader also was the first to rely on his experience as a glider pilot to make a tricky and near-perfect landing.

While “the miracle on the Hudson” did seem miraculous, it was mainly the result of preparation and a cool head.

Sullenberger, with more than 19,000 hours of flight time spanning more than 40 years, has served as his union’s safety chairman and investigator, taking part in several federal accident investigations, and has consulted on safety.

As far back as 1973, he won the Outstanding Cadet in Airmanship award at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

In only one way did Sullenberger come in last: He was last off the plane, having walked it twice in rising water to make sure everyone got out.

Lesson: Stretch as far as you can to prepare to lead when disaster strikes.

— Adapted from “New York mayor hails ‘hero’ crash pilot,” BBC News; also NBC Nightly News, CNN, LinkedIn.

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