Seeing an airplane land in the Hudson river in New York City isn't something that's easily forgotten. In 2009, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger performed an emergency landing in the famous New York river after the US Airways Airbus A320 he was piloting hit a flock of birds caused both engines to malfunction. The remarkable story, dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson," became a huge story, and Captain Sully Sullenberger became a national hero. Now retired, Sullenberger is about to experience a new kind of honor: being played by Tom Hanks on the big screen. Hanks plays Sullenberger in Clint Eastwood's newest drama, Sully , which tells the famous story of the crash and the slightly lesser known story of what came after. But, before you get your Sully movie tickets, there are key photos of the real Sully plane crash you need to see.
The "Miracle on the Hudson" happened in the middle of the day on a Thursday in January, stunning everyone in New York City, and across the nation. Not only did Sullenberger successfully land the plane in the river, all 155 people on board were able to safely exit the plane. There were a few minor injuries, but most emerged unscathed, though likely shaken. "I went through the airplane twice to make sure there was no possibility of anyone being left behind," Sullenberger told Newsweek in a recent interview. "We had solved this huge problem of finding a way to land this huge airliner in the river — there was no way I was going to let anyone die for any other reason after that."
Rescue efforts began with the arrival of New York City commuter ferries that traffic people back and forth across the river to New Jersey. They were reportedly the first on the scene, a crucial part of the effort to retrieve all 155 passengers and crew members on board the plane.
The ferries were quickly joined by firefighters from New York City and Weehawken, New Jersey, and the rescue effort continued. "People were panicking. They said, 'Hurry up, hurry up,'" Capt. Vincent Lombardi of a ferry boat recalled via NBC News.
After they were rescued, many passengers gushed over Sullenberger's impressive landing and cool head. "The captain said, 'Brace for impact because we're going down,'" Jeff Kolodjay, a passenger, said, via NBC News, adding, "It was intense. You've got to give it to the pilot. He made a hell of a landing."
"Laura and I are inspired by the skill and heroism of the flight crew as well as the dedication and selflessness of the emergency responders and volunteers who rescued passengers from the icy waters of the Hudson," President George W. Bush said in a statement following the extraordinary event. In fact, politicians and public figures everywhere praised the landing, helping make Captain Sullenberger a hero.
The plane was fished out of the Hudson River a few days later, and wreckage from the plane continued to be recovered in the months that followed, but for Sullenberger, the plane was the least of his worries. "I was going to save the lives, and if that meant putting a $60 million plane in the water, then that's what it had to be. I never worried about that," the Captain told Newsweek .
Sullenberger was attending parades in his honor at the same time as the National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the crash, picking apart every decision Sullenberger made after losing engine function. The investigation found that Sullenberger could have, theoretically, landed the plane safely at La Guardia Airport, but they acknowledged that in practice, any attempt to return to LaGuardia would have put more lives at risk. Sullenberger emerged from the investigation every bit the hero America thought he was, but, as Sully shows, it wasn't always so clear.