Eastwood Got It Right With Sully
Complete NTSB Accident Report: US Airway 1549
Most pilots tend to take airplane movies with a grain of salt because they’re usually riddled with mistakes or enough exaggerations to quickly make us nuts. Remember big snoozers like Tuskeegee Airmen, Flight or Pearl Harbor? Of course, there have been a few outstanding films over the years like 12 O’Clock high and the Battle of Britain. But the good ones are few in number.
When Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” began the other night, I was hoping one of my favorite directors might get this one right. 90 minutes later, I left the theatre believing that anyone, with even the tiniest interest in aviation, would walk away feeling their money was well spent. Eastwood got it right.
Sully’s not a disaster film. It’s watches almost a bit like a documentary … a very good documentary.
That’s because Eastwood’s film dissects more than just the 208 seconds, between the takeoff of USAir flight 1549, radio callsign Cactus 1549, and its landing on the Hudson River.
The dream sequence that opens the film tells you more about where the film’s headed than anything else. Cactus 1549’s water landing, crash, arrival or whatever you call it, represents the greatest mixes of skill and luck known to aviation in a long time.
But Sully’s also about how all-155 people aboard escaped with only a few minor injuries. The film goes to great lengths to show Sully, played admirably by Tom Hanks, making it clear that he’s not the only hero responsible for all that followed the dual flame out aboard the A-320.
Sully rightfully credits his first officer Jeff Skiles, the flight attendants aboard the Airbus that afternoon, and the hundreds of first responders who arrived within minutes of the crash to help the passengers they found standing on the wing of the A-320 gently floating downstream in the Hudson River, in the frigid air that January afternoon in 2009.
What I think really what makes Sully the first great aviation film I’ve seen in a long time is the opportunity it offers us to get inside Capt. Sullenberger’s head as he wrestles with the decisions he and Skiles made in those seconds after they plowed through a huge flock of Canada Geese.
It happened in the movie, just the way it does in real life. Someone in the cockpit says “birds,” and a fraction of a second later you either hit them, or miss them. There’s seldom a chance to swerve out of the way.
Right after both of the A320s engine’s flamed out, there are some agonizingly long seconds of silence in the cockpit. Some people in the movie house actually yelled out , “Why isn’t he doing something? He’s just sitting there.” Experienced pilots of course, realize Sully was doing something, but all the analysis, like “We can’t really be seeing a dual flameout at low altitude,” was going on in his head and also showed on his face. Read the rest of this entry »