American Icons: Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger

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American Icons: Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better story of a man just doing his job than that of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s Miracle on the Hudson. You all remember the story: in 2009, Captain Sully singlehandedly saved the lives of the 155 passengers and crew of US Airways Flight 1549 by perfectly executing a water landing on the Hudson River after a bird strike.

That legendary action, however, is only the tip of the iceberg with regards to what makes Sully an American icon. Seriously, this guy’s whole life is one big total frat move. Let’s go back to where it all began.

Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III was born in Denison, Texas on January 23, 1951. As a smart, young whippersnapper, Sully’s IQ was so high that he could have joined Mensa at the ripe age of 12. He wasn’t interested in being part of one of those weird, nerdy cliques where all of the members are smart and ugly and all hook up with each other, though. No, Sully wanted to fly. Having spent his early life watching planes soar in and out of the now-defunct Perrin Air Force Base, Sully fell in love with flying.

Sullenberger chose to enroll at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1969. During his time at the academy, he was deemed the best in his class. He graduated as an officer in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science degree. Sully had done it. He’d become a fighter pilot. He’d become exactly what he had set out to be and flew for the Air Force from 1975 to 1980. That’s the American dream right there.

In 1980, Sully switched to flying commercial, where I can only assume he got sky-head from a bunch of slutty flight attendants numerous times while insisting his name was Chesley and not “Shirley” until he married his wife Lorraine in 1989. I then assume he got a bunch of sky-head from his wife.

On that fateful day in 2009, the plane took off, as planes tend to do. A baby was probably crying, the fat guy sitting next to you probably smelled like pepperoni, and you were probably trying to forget about all of this with meager servings of overpriced booze. Obviously, I’m assuming you were there at all, but the point is everything was going fine. Then it happened.

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A bird strike. Both engines cut out, one was even on fire. The culprit? Canadian geese.

Fuckin’ Canadian geese, always migrating and putting Americans in harm’s way. How’s this for a change, you little shits: if you’re gonna keep getting sucked up into our plane engines, we’re not gonna let you enjoy our warm weather. Unlike Canada, we only have one language down here that you need to learn: American. No bilingualism needed. What’s up with Quebec anyways? The Nordiques were a great team, though. Fuck you, Eric Lindros. Anyway, your dying is inconveniencing us, jerks. Stop that.

Therein lies the difference between Sully Sullenberger and I. While I would’ve sat there in the captain’s seat complaining about the birds and doing the combination of masturbating, crying, and doing shrugs I’ve dubbed the Lou Ferrigno, Sully took action. Dude’s got balls so big that I bet he needs to use a seatbelt extender.

Sully used all of the skills he had picked up throughout his life to successfully land the plane in arguably the most adverse location possible: the Hudson River. There were a few bumps and bruises, and some broken legs (I assume they smashed their legs on their tray table after not putting it in an upright and locked position in preparation for landing), but everyone survived. Sully had done it. There truly was a miracle on the Hudson.

In the days after the incident, Sully’s wife, Lorraine, openly told Matt Lauer that she was congratulating Cap’n Chesley with “hero sex,” and boy, did he deserve it. It’s not too often your husband saves 155 lives. She better have done butt stuff. Hell, even I’d be willing to give ol’ Sully a dutch rudder and I’m not even within 5 degrees of separation of knowing anyone who was on Flight 1549. I’m just a proud, thankful American.

Sully has enjoyed much fame after the Miracle on the Hudson. These include numerous public speaking appearances and references on television shows. He’s even had a cocktail named after him: “The Sully,” which is aptly composed of two shots of Grey Goose and a splash of water.

Sully truly is a living testament to the fact that if you know your shit, it will never hit the fan.

“One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, American Icon.

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