Who’s on Your Plane?

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by Matt Forck

Tuesday, January 15, 2009 was a cold, raw day in New York. Over the last several days, the region had been under the grips of a cold air blast plunging the area into a deep freeze. On this day, temperatures were actually considered ‘warm,’ reaching nearly 20 degrees. Yet, life goes on even with the extreme cold. At LaGuardia Airport, passengers were eager to board planes, especially ones traveling to warmer places. People say that man’s second greatest thrill is flying... the greatest is landing and that’s what the 150 passengers boarding U.S. Airways flight 1549 headed to Charlotte, North Carolina might have been thinking. As each passenger walked aboard, they passed their Captain; this was Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenbergers’s plane.

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Despite the cold, the day seemed ‘typical’ for Sully who is veteran of air travel. He carefully guided his 150 passengers toward the runway. When given the ‘okay’ from the control tower, Sully smoothly guided his plane and passengers into the air. Yet moments after liftoff there was a loud blast from one of the engines and the wing of the plane literally blew off. The plane, and its passengers, was several hundred feet in the air... they were in trouble.

But Sully didn’t panic. He understood that these 150 people had lives, and more importantly, that he was responsible for those lives. His training, which had begun years earlier as a military F-4 fighter pilot, took over. He quickly made adjustments, radioed the control tower and identified a ‘soft’ landing opportunity. Moments later the large jet splashed down in the 40-degree waters of the Hudson River. Rescue personnel were on site almost instantly; they were in the water with boats and other gear, ready to help. The rescue began as passenger after passenger was pulled to safety and shuttled to land. In the end, all 150 passengers and five crewmembers were alive, none with serious injuries. Who was the last person off the plane? A captain who wanted to make sure everyone was safe... Captain Sully.

“Catch a passion for helping others,” William H. Danforth, Founder of Ralston Purina once said, “and a richer life will come back to you!” Who has boarded your plane? In a less obvious yet equally important way when people walk into our factory, office and work environment they are walking onto our plane. We are the captain guiding the plane and they expect a safe landing. In an interview a couple week’s after the incident, a reporter asked Sully if he had been able to sleep after this incident. He said no. The reported pushed, asking why not, you are seen as a hero for landing the plane. Sully seriously responded, “Yes but I landed the plane in the Hudson River. I lie awake wondering what I could have done different to prevent this from happening.” Today, realize who is on your plane. Don’t be left wondering what you may have done different. Bring you and your people to a safe landing today!


About the Author:
Matt Forck, JLW & CSP, delivers proven and engaging safety keynote messages throughout the United States. Join the growing list of clients calling on Matt to bring their organization to safety’s next level and check out Matt’s website to take advantage of many FREE safety tools; www.thesafetysoul.org

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