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Sullenberger: Lifetime of Preparation Led to ‘Miracle’

Jeffrey Brown speaks with Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger whose emergency landing of a United Airways flight in New York saved the lives of 155 people.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Finally tonight, a heroic pilot reflects on his life and the moment that changed it. Jeffrey Brown sat down last week with Capt. Sully Sullenberger.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    On Jan. 15 of this year, a U.S. Airways flight taking off from La Guardia Airport in New York lost use of both its engines after running into a flock of geese. Captain Chesley Sullenberger managed to land the plane in the Hudson River, and all 155 on board, passengers and crew, survived.

    Captain Sullenberger has now written a book, "Highest Duty." It recounts the life lessons that prepared him to cope with that moment of peril.

    And he joins me now.

    And welcome to you.

    CAPTAIN CHESLEY "SULLY" SULLENBERGER III: Thank you for having me.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    One of the themes that comes through is this idea of being prepared, preparation that helped you at that moment. And it comes through in a way that suggests why you don't really like the idea of being thought of as a hero.

    Explain that.

    CAPTAIN CHESLEY "SULLY" SULLENBERGER III: Well, I think, like many people who have found themselves in such an extraordinary circumstance, they really do feel like their entire lives has been a preparation for that moment.

    And I think that's especially true in my case, because I remember vividly as a child knowing that I needed to be prepared for whatever might come. And my mother was a first-grade teacher. And, from her, I got a great lifelong gift of learning.

    One of the things I teach my children is that I have always invested in myself, and I have never stopped learning, never stopped growing.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    You know, even more specifically, you write about, as a young student pilot, you studied accidents, and then, in the Air Force, you study what happened to pilots that were in accidents and why they happened.

    CAPTAIN CHESLEY "SULLY" SULLENBERGER III: You know, it's been said that a smart person learns from his or her own experiences, but a wise person learns also from the experiences of others.

    And I have tried my whole life to be one of the latter. And, in fact, in flying jet fighters, if you don't learn from other people's experiences, and you learn only from your own, you might not survive.