US Air Flight 1549 was on its initial climb out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina when, 3 minutes into the flight, it struck a flock of Canadian Geese, causing a complete loss of thrust from both its engines.
In what later came to be known as The Miracle On the Hudson, the crew successfully glided the plane to a landing in the river, safely evacuating all 150 passengers and 5 crew members. Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger was able to calmly and confidently guide his crew and the passengers through this crisis.
Lessons to be Learned from the Miracle On the Hudson
Throughout our lives, many of us will be fortunate enough to not face a crisis of this magnitude. However, regardless of the size of the potential problems we will face, we can can take away several lessons from the actions of Captain Sullenberger and his crew in coping with and coming safely through our personal crises. Here are 5 take-aways we can use.
- ANTICIPATION AND PLANNING – Striking a flock of birds and losing engine power is a potentially possible event for an airliner and its crew. So it makes sense that they would document this potential crisis, such as in a crisis checklist, and work through and even practice mitigation. For us, this might mean thinking about what we would do if we lost our jobs, and putting together a plan that included a cushion of 3 to 6 months worth of salary in the form of cash savings to carry our families through while we landed the new job.
- DECISION MAKING – When a crisis presents itself, concentrate on the facts, sift through the emotions and drama, seek points of view from Voices of Value, check back to your mitigating strategies, and focus your attention and energy on making the right decision. Captain Sullenberger focused and worked his crew through their checklists in evaluating and deciding what to do.
- DECISIVENESS – Once you have made a decision, act decisively to execute your strategy. Captain Sully’s crew first decided to attempt a landing at a nearby airport, then requested and obtained permission to land there. For us, this is all about moving ahead quickly and efficiently, and not neglecting to do the things that are required to exercise our chosen strategy.
- FLEXIBILITY – This step involves constantly evaluating how the crisis in unfolding and how well your decisions are working out. It is essential to recognize when a change is needed and a different course is required. Captain Sully and his crew re-evaluated their position, realized that they would not be able to land at the small regional airport, and instantly decided to execute a water landing.
- LEADERSHIP – Leadership? Yes! The entire crew of US Airways Flight 1549 lead all the way through the crisis, with Captain Sullenberg setting the overall leadership tone. They refused to be victims. With the right plans, effective decision making, decisiveness, and flexibility, we can and should lead ourselves (and our families, departments, or companies) through the crisis, refusing to become victims.