The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff


Heroes: The watery crash landing of US Airways flight 1549 with all 155 passengers emerging alive has been called a "miracle." Miracle? We see something even better: True competence by a well-trained professional.

No doubt about it: US Airways pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, a former fighter pilot with more than 40 years of flying under his belt, had the right stuff.

After hitting a flock of geese in his Airbus A320 shortly after takeoff and stalling out, he dead-sticked the plane into the Hudson River. Within five minutes, all 155 passengers had exited the stricken jet safely in 20-degree weather.

Only one word for this: Fantastic.

The story has captivated people. Maybe it's the happy ending. The last time this happened, in 1982, an Air Florida jet hit a bridge over the Potomac and tumbled into the water. Sadly, the outcome was typical of wet landings: Just five of the 79 passengers survived.

But another reason people found this story thrilling is that, at a time of national crisis, it's wonderful to see a person who's extremely good at his job. Pilot Sulley, a 57-year-old Californian, is the walking, talking embodiment of a simple, old-fashioned virtue that seems missing from American life these days: Competence.

At a time when dozens of failed companies headed by multimillion-dollar CEOs are begging for hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts, and Congress stumbles from one mistake to the next trying to dig our economy out of a mess Congress helped cause, it's hard not to feel disappointed with our major institutions.

Just look at the chart on the next page, culled from an IBD/TIPP poll taken just this month. It shows that people have shockingly little confidence in many of the most important institutions of our democracy, including our capitalist system. Only the military emerges with a semblance of respect.

Watching dozens of crash survivors emerge from the fuselage onto the submerged wings of the crashed jet, looking for all the world as if they were walking on water, it was hard not to feel a sense of extreme admiration for the pilot, the crew and the dozens of private boats that snapped into action when disaster struck.

They all did their job well — exceedingly well — and saved lives.

That's especially true of Sulley who, as the AP tells us, "got his pilot's license at 14, was named best aviator in his class at the Air Force Academy, flew fighter jets, investigated air disasters, mastered glider flying and even studied the psychology of how cockpit crews behave in a crisis."
Competence. What a concept! We hope it catches on.


"The greater and more persistent your confidence in God, the more abundantly you will receive all that you ask." Albert the Great

"Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good. There is no self-confidence to compare with this." Ulrich Zwingli

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main." John Donne

"Your whole nature must be re-born, your passions, and your affections, and your aims, and your conscience, and your will must all be bathed in a new element and reconsecrated to your Maker and, the last not the least, your intellect." John Henry Newman

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