By Thomas M. Loarie

Flight 1459 and Everyday Heroes

February 2, 2009
Column: CEO Learnings

Last weekend, my wife and I went to the Danville Town Green to participate in a Hero’s Welcome for one of our own, Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger. “Sully” became known to the world on a cold January 15th afternoon several weeks ago when he set his US Air Airbus A-320 safely and spectacularly down on New York’s Hudson River after the plane’s engines were knocked out by a flock of Canadian geese. All 155 passengers and crew survived without a single critical injury.


US Air Flight 1459 was at roughly 3000 ft, traveling at least 250 mph, when the plane hit the flock of geese. With little thrust and the plane’s airspeed falling sharply, Sullenberger took over manual command of the jet, lowered the nose to keep his plane from falling out of the sky, and after evaluating all alternatives, decided to land the plane in the Hudson. He radioed in and said, “We can’t do it. We’re gonna end up in the Hudson.” He then went on the plane PA system and commanded all onboard to “brace.”


Despite a very hard landing, the crew was able to open the doors, deploy the life rafts, and guide passengers to a relatively calm evacuation. Sullenberger remained on board until the plane was empty.  He not only waited until the plane was empty, he made two trips up and down the aisle as it was filling with water, checking for anyone left behind.  It all took place in a matter of seconds.  Yet in those seconds, Sullenberger, his crew, and the first responders from both shores of the Hudson became heroes.  True heroes.


We will long remember this harrowing ordeal, now dubbed “The Miracle on the Hudson.”  But will we also remember that the news of these real-life heroes was sandwiched between the disturbing news of Bernard Madoff’s 40-year $60 billion Ponzi scheme, Illinois’ Governor Rod Blagojevich’s auctioning off President Obama’s Senate seat, Merrill Lynch’s John Thain’s billion-dollar-bonus payout after the failure of Merrill Lynch, former NYC State Commissioner Dr. Antonia C. Novello using her NY Health Department staff as personal chauffeurs, porters, and shopping assistants, Secretary of Treasury appointee (and former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York) and newly appointed U.S. “Health Czar” Tom Daschle failing to pay substantial income taxes, not to mention many others failing to meet their “role” or “job” obligations?


Flight 1459 is a reminder that there are individuals who daily accept their role responsibilities and are able to transcend themselves for the common good. We rarely hear or think about them until some catastrophic event brings these everyday folks into our lives. They are, however, all around us, from all walks of life. It may be the single parent down the street, or the neighbor next door trying to keep things together for his or her family, or an executive/small business owner trying his darnedest to save jobs, or a priest working 24/7 to minister to all who come to him seeking help during these very uncertain and difficult economic times.


This is a time to recognize those heroes that fill our everyday life and, most importantly, to recognize and exercise the daily hero potential in each of us. While Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger and his crew are an inspiration to all, we do not need to be on a harrowing air flight to find the leader in each of us and to be an inspiration for others.  These troubled times provide daily leadership moments for us all.




View Articles Thomas M. Loarie is a popular host of The Mentors Radio Show, the founder and CEO of BryoLogyx Inc. (, and a seasoned corporate... MORE »