Don’t Confuse “Miracles” With A Job Well Done

Let me acknowledge the fact that some readers of this post will vehemently disagree with what I’m about to say. Others may get angry or upset or simply shake their heads with the disappointment of my “just not getting it”. I’m going in with my eyes open here so all your emotions, both in agreement or opposition, are warmly welcome.

Here’s the thing – what happened to US Airways flight 1549 was not a “miracle”. It simply wasn’t, and I believe that we’ve gotten a bit cavalier in the use and application of such a term.

Now before your feathers get into full ruffle, understand that I am overjoyed by yesterday’s outcome! I personally have been a passenger on two near-crashes and cringe every time the news flashes imagery of a downed plane. As someone who has flown more than I’d care to admit, I will be honest that I think of what might happen (and how I’d react) each and every time I fly. Every single time.

Captain SullenbergBut the facts as we know them are this. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is an extremely well trained, highly experienced pilot and air safety consultant who did his job flawlessly. His flight crew? Performed flawlessly. The passengers? With some limited exceptions, performed flawlessly. The ferry, tugboat and emergency crews? Performed flawlessly.

So let’s not focus on divine intervention. Let’s instead attribute the outcome to everyone doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment. Training, experience, leadership, strength, empathy, selflessness. These are the attributes we strive for as professionals and individuals. These are the ideals we attempt to reinforce in the minds and hearts of our employees, our friends, our families. And we do all of this in preparation for whatever we might encounter, hoping that it will be enough to get us through with grace.

So I, for one, will take this brief moment to stand up and applaud those who actually got it right! And the next time I board a plane and give the crew a warm smile, I’ll be thinking of Captain Sully and all those others who performed so well under such duress.

Congratulations to them all and let’s keep the conversation going.

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Kimberly Hughes

I agree with you. I have been reading “”Outlier” by Malcolm Gladwell and one of his points is that it takes 10,000 hours of training to become an expert in just about anything. “Sully” has 19 thousand hours of flying according to the media and this puts him well over the threshold of when a person could be expected to perform at this level. Of course, place and time probably helped. It was daylight and he is very familiar with the airport’s surroundings.

Jeffrey Levy

Absolutely right. Why would anyone disagree with you? I’m a private pilot, and even in a small prop plane, you practice what to do if the engine quits on takeoff and numerous other scenarios. This pilot and crew did their jobs well, and deserve commendation for it.

Oh, and I can’t help it, but just before touchdown on every commercial flight, an image of the plan swerving off the runway goes through my mind.

Barry Everett

The reminder of the Titanic, being the paradigm of everything going wrong, tells us again and again about the necessities of research, planning, building, training, observation and execution. While no miracle, what we finally get to observe is the thrilling example of many things going right. As the light now focused on Sully scatters to the other participants, I believe we will find that ordinary heroes doing their jobs populated the scene on that cold afternoon. Don’t forget to only casualty, the A320 airframe, a machine that was designed and executed to do its part, like a giant wounded bird holding as still as possible while people stand calmly on its wings for the chance to step onto the rescue craft. Another wonderful image is the NTSB news conference Friday, where Ms. Kitty gets to smile and laugh, certainly a rarity for NTSB, who usually must tell us what went wrong. Now we must concentrate on learning exactly what went right. Yay. I hope it is the first of many opportunities this year and beyond. And all in this group have a few successful water ditchings yet to execute, before we get out of some of our respective bird strike events. That’s enough raving for now…

Kenneth Watkins

Hello Mark,

Once again we find ourselves in simpatico. The pilot and co-pilot of that plane have repeatedly asserted that their training instincts kicked in, and they “did what they had to do.”

I’ll go one step further, our current military efforts in foreign theaters lends itself to romanticized patriotism and invocations of “god’s” grace for one nation over another. In my estimation, none of that serves people in the midst of some of the most traumatic experiences they’ll ever have in their life. They need to be recognized and respected for being well-trained, committed, and focused professionals. As one citizen to another, I believe there is no greater homage you can pay to a person than commending them for their precision and professionalism when it’s most needed. Miracles, we don’t need no stinkin miracles!

We need precision, commitment to duty, and skill… If that doesn’t save you, it’s time for you to die, and if you do die, you will be too exhausted from trying your goddamned level best to even care that you are dead!

Keep up the good critical thinking…

your friend
Ken (“the Pragmatic Bohemian”)