Who could forget the live pictures on CNN? A US Airways passenger plane floating majestically on the Hudson. It looked like some giant bird, wings spread, just effortlessly ambling along. But it was far from that. Nearly two minutes after take-off as the aircraft climbed to 3,000 feet, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had radioed the LaGuardia tower announcing that he had hit a flock of birds, “lost thrust on both engines” and was heading back to the airport. We all know what happened next. Sullenberger, unable to make it back to the field, ditched the Airbus 320 into the Hudson. Miraculously, all 150 passengers aboard survived.
Sullenberger and his crew became national heroes that day. Amid the doom and gloom of the near collapse of the nation’s economy, America found something to celebrate - a team of professionals who had executed their crisis skills with precision and unparalleled expertise.
Since retiring from aviation, Sullenberger has been accorded a hero’s mantle. He has written two books, one a best-seller, and is a highly sought after motivational speaker. He continues to push for aviation safety and has taken on another role, as a patient safety advocate in health care.
So how did the patient safety advocacy come about? He talks about that in a recent 1:2:1 conversation and tells me that if the daily errors in medicine occurred in aviation, the skies would be empty.