NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The much-anticipated movie “Sully,” based on the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson,” hit theaters Friday.
Charlie Rose of “CBS This Morning” boarded a Coast Guard ship with Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and sailed on the Hudson River, where the story unfolded.
It’s been more than seven years since that fateful day. Returning to the river with Sullenberger, it is evident the moment remains fresh on his mind.
“If we had touched with one wing too low, if we hadn’t had the wings exactly level, it would have spun us around. The aircraft might have broken apart,” Sullenberger recalled. “If we had landed with too great a rate of descent, the airplane may have broken apart and wouldn’t have floated long enough for the rescue to take place.”
In the movie directed by Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks plays the role of Sully.
“Tom came to our home and spent almost half a day there,” Sullenberger said. “And one of the first things we talked about was the responsibility he felt about playing a real person still living, but that after the film has run its course, I’ll have to go back to living my life, and he wanted to be sure he didn’t screw it up for me.”
Appearing in the film with Hanks is Aaron Eckhart, who plays co-pilot Jeff Skiles. Together they take the audience through the harrowing 208 seconds of US Airways Flight 1549.
“What I really wanted this film to have was a real undercurrent of the importance of our common humanity, and I think it’s there,” Sullenberger said.
“This is about a group of people, at a time in the world’s history when it seemed as if everything was going wrong during the ’08-’09 financial meltdown — it seemed like no one could do anything right — and this group of people, who didn’t know each other came together in this place, in this time and made it their mission in life to see that every life was saved. Everyone knows that we landed, that everyone survived, and we’ve celebrated that.”
The 15-month investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is the film’s central focus.
“The NTSB made about three dozen important safety recommendations to improve safety going forward,” Sullenberger said. “But the NTSB cannot mandate that they be adopted by the industry. That’s up to the FAA, our regulatory body, to do. And sadly, only two or three of the 35 recommendations have been adopted by industry and mandated by the FAA.
“There are a lot of reasons, but the bottom line is the airlines, in a very cost-competitive industry, are reluctant to take on additional safety measures that they view as a burden or an additional cost.”
Did Sullenberger make any mistakes during the Hudson River landing?
“Of course,” he said. “It wasn’t perfect. But it worked. And I was confident that I could find something that would work.”
Sullenberger, who became a national hero, is now a CBS News aviation and safety contributor.