Almost everyone is familiar with “the miracle on the Hudson,” where back in 2009 US Airways 1549 had a double engine failure shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia. They ditched the plane in the Hudson, and amazingly enough everyone survived. There has been even more press about the incident the past few months, given that the movie “Sully” was released in September, which documents the incident.
While Sully Sullenberger (the captain) has become a household name, not as many people could name the first officer of that flight, who was Jeff Skiles. Anyway, a Reddit user recently emailed Jeff, and received a fascinating response that I can’t not share.
Here’s the question that the Reddit user asked Jeff. The user is training to become a CFI (and presumably eventually wants to be an airline pilot), but has anxiety about having an engine failure after takeoff, and how it may inhibit his ability to think clearly:
I sent Mr. Skiles an email recently asking him if he could point to any one or two experiences/training events that he believes contributed most to their success when they landed the A320 in the Hudson. I revealed to him I am training to be a CFI and that I recently developed a fear of an engine failure at takeoff and that I believed that fear might inhibit me from thinking clearly in the event of a failure actually happening. As one of the two pilots who went through one of the most unexpected power-off landings ever, I figured he might have a unique perspective.
Jeff Skiles’ response to this is pretty amazing:
Funny you should ask and I’m going to give you an answer you don’t expect. I think that working for an airline that was perpetually in danger of going bankrupt played a large part in forming my response to the specific incident of the Miracle on the Hudson and in handling the public and investigative scrutiny afterwards. We can sometimes let the fears of what “might” happen dim the enjoyment of today and even limit our ability to function. I learned early to stop looking for villains hiding in every shadow. My mantra became just make it to the end of today and tomorrow will take care of itself. I learned to be a happy person and enjoy wherever I am and whom ever I am with. While the Miracle on the Hudson was certainly a unique experience, I never felt as if I wouldn’t be here to see tomorrow nor did I have any thoughts of fear or panic. I just took that day as it came just like all those since and I leave tomorrow for tomorrow.
Hah, so the fact that airlines have perpetually been in bankruptcy caused him to live his life day-by-day, rather than in fear.
I’m not sure the moral of the story is that nearly bankrupt airlines are safer, though I think the overall message of taking life day-by-day and not taking anything for granted is something we can all be reminded of.