The world was stunned when Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger landed a damaged Airbus A320 on the Hudson River in New York City on January 15th, 2009. The pilot became an instant icon, and the incident immediately passed into legend. Now, Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood is set to bring the story to the big screen for Warner Bros, and fellow Academy Award winner Tom Hanks is apparently in talks to take the lead role. The only surprising thing about this is the fact that it’s taken so long to get to it.
Captain Sullenberger learned to fly at the age of 16, later becoming a fighter pilot in the US Air Force. He quickly progressed to the rank of Captain, and also served on an accident investigation board. Joining US Airways – previously Pacific Southwest Airlines – in 1980, Sullenberger later went on to found a safety, management and reliability consulting firm, named Safety Reliability Methods Inc (SRM). Over the course of his aviation career, he worked with NASA, the NTSB, and led many improvements in aviation safety.
All of that experience suddenly became invaluable when US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of birds while departing LaGuardia Airport, New York, for Charlotte, North Carolina. Both engines were disabled and Captain Sullenberger found himself fighting to keep control of a fully loaded, engineless passenger jet in some of the most crowded airspace in the world, over one of the busiest cities on the planet. In conjunction with Air Traffic Control, Captain Sully assessed his options – attempting to land in New Jersey, or return to LaGuardia – and decided that a water landing on the Hudson River would provide the best chance of survival. Performing the manoeuvre perfectly, Captain Sullenberger saved the lives of all 155 passengers and crew.
Captain Sully retired from US Airways on March 3rd, 2010, but not before landing on the New York Times bestseller list with Highest Duty: My Search For What Really Matters, co-written by Jeffrey Zaslow. It appears to be this book that has provided the source material for Eastwood’s Captain Sully movie, with Todd Komarnicki (Perfect Stranger) writing the screenplay. With this kind of project – using this type of material, for this sort of character – the involvement of Tom Hanks seems almost inevitable. Could we be looking at the major awards contender of 2017? Watch this space.