Chesley Sullenberger, also known as Captain Sully, 67, turned a passenger’s worst nightmare into a story of heroism when he landed US Airways Flight 1549 in Manhattan’s Hudson River on January 15, 2009 after the plane suffered a dreadful malfunction.
Unable to make it to the nearest airport after both of the jet’s engines were disabled by a bird strike, Sully flew the plane straight towards the river.
Despite the obvious risks and time constraints, the captain behaved impeccably under pressure and ultimately saved the lives of the 155 people on board.
The incredible event came to be known as Miracle on the Hudson, which was later turned into a Hollywood movie played by Tom Hanks.
Now, REELZ’s new docuseries is looking back at Sully’s remarkable landing, and speaking to first-hand witnesses who thought the plane ride gone wrong would lead to their tragic end.
“I’m sure you have flown enough that you’ve heard ‘Ladies and gentlemen we have a little mechanical problem, we’re gonna circle around and get this fixed.’ But nothing,” says Doreen Welsh, a flight attendant and US Airways Flight 1549 survivor.
“So that’s when I thought ‘I better go back and sit down and strap in, because they’re probably too busy to tell us.’ Because we’re over New York airspace, one of the busiest in the world,” she recalls.
Air traffic control was still trying to get Sully to land in Teterboro, New Jersey when the captain realized it would not be possible. Calm and collected, he told them he couldn’t do it, and he was going to end up in the Hudson.
“After about a minute or so, that’s when we heard the PA” give the announcement,” says survivor Dan Vinton.
He quickly realized they were not going to be able to land in Charlotte that day, but was hoping the captain would simply turn the plane back to La Guardia or Newark.
All Sully said, however, was: “This is your Captain speaking. Brace for impact.”
“And from that moment I was a dead man,” says a teary-eyed Vinton, remembering the near-fatal incident.
Collision Course: Captain Sully airs Sunday, September 23 at 10 ET / PT on REELZ.
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