'Sullying' the Work of Commercial Pilots Everywhere
So the cockpit tapes of the US Airways flight have come out, and the media renews its swoon over the calm, cool behavior of Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger as he landed his airplane in the Hudson River.
Let me start by saying that my intent is in no way to criticize the pilot. He obviously did nothing worthy of criticism, and he should indeed be praised -- just not to this degree -- and I suspect that he is more than a little bemused and even embarrassed over the attention, which would be in keeping with the character that he has demonstrated so far.
My criticism is of the media in its ongoing coverage of a man who -- when it comes down to it -- just did his job. And in their drooling adulation of him, they actually slander the thousands of pilots who, like Sully, do their jobs every day.
So what is a hero? To me, it's someone who takes personal risks and perhaps even willingly sacrifices himself for others. While I think that Sullenberger did his job in an exemplary manner, there is a distinct difference between what he did before the plane came to rest in the river, and after. When he realized that his airplane was in trouble he had two choices: land the airplane safely or die. While Sullenberger had a responsibility as a pilot to save his passengers and people on the ground, he also knew that if he didn't land the plane safely, he -- being in the front of the aircraft -- would be the first to die. This is as it should be, because people wouldn't get on a plane if they thought that the pilot had less of a stake than them in flight safety. So clearly, it was in his own self-interest to land that airplane as gently as possible. However, once he did land he could have chosen to have been one of the first to evacuate, but instead, he stayed aboard and made sure that all of his passengers were safe. That is where the heroism comes in.