my favorite movie of all time, The Right Stuff is that which separates the ordinary pilots from the extraordinary ones. This is especially true when it comes to the most critical moment in a pilot's life, when a split second decision means the difference between life and death.
In the past I have written about the "Miracle on the Hudson" and expressed my opinion that it was not Sully's superior airplane handling skills that saved the passengers and crew of flight 1549, it was his brave and timely decision to attempt a landing in the Hudson river.
A year later, my thoughts have been echoed over at FlightGlobal in regards to this incident as well as a very similar crash, British Airways flight 38. Kieran Daly writes this week that the British Airways pilot's "achievement, like Sully Sullenberger´s in New York, was to make the tough decision. Plenty - probably the great majority - of pilots could have landed on the Hudson and made it over the fence to Heathrow - but not all would have taken the decision to opt for the river over a distant but tempting runway.."
On the other hand, you have "The Wrong Stuff" in the news this week as well. I have also explored the possible causes of crash of Continental flight 3047. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, it appeared that icing was a likely suspect. The truth that has been revealed lately is far more shocking. Both the pilot and the co-pilot displayed a lack of basic airmanship that would be expected of any candidate for a pilot's license. The pilots failed to recover from a stall, an exercise that I have taught thousands of times to student pilots on one of their first few flights.
In defense of the pilots they were incredibly fatigued and poorly trained, as pointed out in this PBS Frontline documentary that aired this week. I encourage you watch it online in it's entirety.
I found the report surprising, even as I know regional pilots and was even once offered a job as a pilot for a regional airline. Many of the issues explored in this report directly relate to my decision not to pursue a career as an airline pilot.