Sully: The Movie, was released in the year 2016. Well, most people believe the movie’s about the Miracle on the Hudson. Today, I debunk that myth. Yes, the Miraculous landing on the Hudson does serve as the movie’s backdrop, but the movie isn’t a thriller about the landing. No, I happen to have a different take on it. I believe it’s an intense drama about what happens after, the ups- the downs, the triumphs- the trials and everything in between. And the life lessons it teaches us.

Watch the movie trailer here.

The reason I say that is because a movie cannot be based on an incident that takes barely 10% of screen time in a movie that lasts for an hour and a half. Then why and what exactly do we need to know more about the movie ‘Sully’ and look at it as more than just the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’.

For those of you unaware about the storyline of the movie, this is about a real -life incident that happened on the morning of 15 Jan 2009 after a United Airlines passenger aircraft Flight No. 1549 from NYC to Charlotte, took off. Barely a few minutes into its ascent, while flying over the Hudson River, it encountered a huge cackle of geese causing multiple bird hits which led to both its engines getting severely damaged and flaming out. Even so, thanks to the experience of the very wise and senior pilot Captain Sully Sullenberger III, the plane made an unprecedented but successful water landing, with all its 155 passengers and crew on board safe and rescued within just 24 minutes of the landing.

This was the very first time in aviation history that such an incident had ever occurred and as is customary the entire event was examined and investigated threadbare by the US NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board).


Passengers stand on the wings of a U.S. Airways plane as a ferry pulls up to it after it landed in the Hudson River in New York, January 15, 2009. Local media said the plane was an Airbus with 146 passengers and five crew which had just taken off from La Guardia Airport and was trying to return after apparently striking a flock of birds. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES) BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE – RTR23FP8

The movie ‘Sully’ is about the trauma, doubt and reactions that the pilot faces during the course of this investigation.

A lot of movies have life lessons esp those based on real life incidents. Here are 3 life lessons, that I noticed while watching this emotional, human drama:

Sully teaches us:

In a crisis, stay calm, do not panic and trust your gut.

Easier said than done. How does one stay calm in the face of oncoming death and how do you learn to trust your gut? What exactly is instinct or gut feeling.

Gut feeling is nothing but unconscious force of habit. Instinct arises from evolutionary and acquired memories. This means that evolutionary responses developed over millions of years of evolution while acquired responses are a result of hours and hours and hours of practicing a skill correctly, some say it takes 10,000hrs. You practice to the extent where your every action/reaction simply becomes second nature. Where thought becomes redundant and generated stimulus automatically elicits a rehearsed response.

In the case of Capt. Sully, all the actions he took in those critical 208 seconds of that fateful landing, happened “instinctively” because behind it lay 4 decades of flying experience, in a glider, in a fighter jet and also in several passenger aircraft. Experience and knowledge of flying millions of passengers over 40 years, led to him staying calm and attempting what had never ever been heard or done before.

Practice not only makes perfect but it also instils within us what is known as motor and muscle memory due to which we seem to instinctively react in a crisis.

Sully teaches us:

The world has never been kind to first-timers.

Has that ever stopped inventors, athletes, adventurists, scientists, thinkers or innovators from trying? In the words of Capt. Sully himself, “everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time.”

Naysayers and pessimists have always existed, people have mocked, derided and chided every first timer. Doubts and questions have been raised by allies, well-wishers and critics who are simply waiting for you to fail.

That is where true test of character lies. A first timer has to be triply courageous, first while attempting what s/he wishes to achieve, second while facing the world with his/her achievement and thirdly, while being judged for what s/he has managed to achieve.

Just like in the case of Capt. Sully, while for the rest of the world he was being hailed as a hero, he was being constantly hounded and tried by the media and also extensively scrutinised by the NTSB for his actions in the cockpit. So intense was the scrutiny that he had begun to doubt and question his own judgement and abilities in spite of his heroic feat.

Even after rescuing every single passenger and crew member on that plane, he actually suffered intense PTSD, anxiety and sleeplessness.

What we can learn from this is we need to believe in ourselves, objectively analyse our actions and if we believe the actions were correct we need to stick to our guns no matter what or how bad the opposition. 

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Sully teaches us:

It is our moral responsibility to defend the right action.

No matter how down and out Capt Sully felt, once he had facts and figures backing him up and once he realised that his actions had been proven right, he stood by his call to land on the river that day instead of anywhere else and defended his action up until the very end.

We owe this as a moral responsibility for those who follow in our footsteps or who might come to face a similar predicament somewhere in the future.

The Real Capt Sully


Capt Sully Sullenberger III

Thanks to Capt. Sully’s impassioned defense of his actions, the SoP of a water landing at extremely low altitudes has been included and its practice on simulators been made mandatory for all pilots henceforth.

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This would ensure that if ever a similar such situation arose in the future, a catastrophic accident could be avoided because pilots now will be prepared and better equipped to deal with the situation.

Therefore, when you realise you’re right, never give up on yourself and your beliefs. You owe that as a moral responsibility to those who will succeed you.

In summary, the movie Sully is way more than a movie on an incredible incident, it goes beyond us being enamored by captain Sullenberger’s expertise and ingenuity.  It actually teaches us some valuable life lessons about honing our instincts, combating self-doubt, reaffirming self-belief and our moral responsibility to defend what we believe is correct.