We have a new American Hero today. Chesley Sullenberger is the pilot who managed to set down his crippled US Airlines jet in the Hudson River in New York yesterday. Because of Sullenberg's unbelievable skill and calm under pressure, all of the passengers managed to survive the water landing.
You know how we laud athletes for making last second free throws or draining a clutch putt for the way they "handle pressure"? How do you think that pressure compares to what Pilot Sullenberger was dealing with the couple of minutes his plane stayed aloft after hitting a flock of birds? Kind of puts things into perspective.
And his calm and command of the situation didn't end there, as the pilot and co-pilot led a relatively organized evacuation of the plane. What do you think was going through everyone's mind when it came time to open those emergency exits? Is ice-cold water about to come pouring in? Will the plane flood and take us all down with it? Will I have to swim for it?
It's been a couple of years since my last commercial flight (the wife and I are paying for things a bit more important than a couple of days somewhere it doesn't get a minus-45 windchill)--but I'm one of those who tend to pay little or no attention to the pre-flight emergency instructions. I usually just make sure I know where the closest exit is--and I make a note of how big the people are between me and that door, so I know how hard it will be to push everyone else out of the way. I might pay a bit more attention from now on--especially to the water landing part.
One more thing, try to remember the work performed by Chesley Sullenburger--and all of the US Airways crew members on the plane yesterday--when you hear about pilots and flight attendants agreeing to 33 or 50-percent decreases in their salaries and benefits. Were any of those people overpaid yesterday? I don't think so.