Monday, 9 February 2009

Perceptions of heroism

There has been a lot of justified praise for Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of Flight 1549 that crashed into the Hudson in New York. He did a good job in crash-landing the plane; depending on how you define it, this was the first successful splash-landing of a large passenger jet.

On the other hand, he did exactly what he should have done. There were also others on board the plane; are the media saying that the co-pilot did nothing? Focussing on one man may give the media good stories (epecially if they can build him up only to bring him down later), but tells far from the whole story.

Then there is the strength of the Airbus A320 plane, which did not break apart as it hit the water, or the weakness of the General Electric engines for failing under bird strikes - or their strength for still giving power despite the bird strikes. That is an important point, the engines continued giving a little power. This meant that the crew had full electric power (and not the reduced power given by the Ram-Air Turbine under the plane), and the power gave them a little extra help.

The truth is, being a pilot is usually a routine job, yet we rely on them to treat a routine job as a critical job. When they get it wrong (, they get suitable admonished. Let's not just praise Captain Sullenberger, but all the crew on the planes that we fly on.

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