The Hudson River Miracle

America’s smartest journalist explains how and why the pilot and crew responded so beautifully, and the hazards involved in every take-off and landing. An amateur pilot himself, he offers some wonderful first-hand insights. Please go there.

I read pieces like this, and I so hope professional journalism finds a way to survive.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

I enjoyed Charles Bremner’s article in the Times – I found it very interesting.

http://tinyurl.com/7xojz4

At that moment, the aeroplane driver is no longer a systems manager. He or she has to forget the electronics and call on the most old-fashioned aviator’s skills. A Dutch airline captain called Denkraai decribed it on the PRUNE pilots’ network this morning: “What a nightmare. We sit there in our cockpits for years and years and nothing goes wrong. Then all of a sudden you have seconds to decide. I salute you sir, and your crew.”

In some ways I wonder whether it’s disrespectful to call someone a hero for doing their job – it somehow implies they don’t care as much 99% of the time and/or it’s “special” when they do. But certainly the passengers were lucky to have such a skilled captain on board that day and the crew are to be congratulated in ensuring no one died.

January 17, 2009 @ 8:22 am | Comment

If this pilot wasn’t a hero, who on earth is? A fireman running into a burning building to save a child is still a hero, even if he’s “just doing his job.” It is in no way disrespectful to call anyone a hero when they really deserve it. While this pilot was “doing his job,” he was faced with a situation that was unique, something most of his peers have never had to deal with, and he and the crew rose to the occasion and saved everyone’s life. Definitely a hero, and an outstanding one at that.

If doing something heroic while doing your job precludes someone from being called a hero, how could there ever be such a thing as a “war hero”? Defending one’s country, fighting the enemy and protecting others is part of every soldier’s job, after all.

January 17, 2009 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

If this pilot wasn’t a hero, who on earth is?

Someone who is acting beyond the call of duty/doing something that their usual responsibilities do not include. It can be argued that it is not heroic to land a plane safely if you’re the pilot. However if this was a cargo plane and the crew had made a decision to take a landing attempt that was one of the most risky for them yet not risky for anyone on the ground that would be “heroic” because they would be putting the lives of others below their own.

While this pilot was “doing his job,” he was faced with a situation that was unique, something most of his peers have never had to deal with

They don’t have to deal with it, but they are trained to – it is still part of their job.

how could there ever be such a thing as a “war hero”?

Quite easily if the soldier in question does something special that would risk his own life to save that of others. An example might be from this article.

http://tinyurl.com/7jpjw2

The person in question was (from the sound of it) in cover but he had wounded colleagues who needed help. It was honestly not his job to expose himself to fire even if Joe Average would think it is, because he himself could have been injured/killed and reduced the fighting power of his unit – and then his injured friends might have been captured or killed. But he took a gamble and risked his own life – he won a gallantry award as a result.

On the other hand the pilot wasn’t risking his own life given he was already on the plane. That said staying on board/going back in to check for other passengers could be considered heroic.

I’m not saying this person deserve no praise – far from it, I think he should get a lot of it (or none if that’s what he prefers). But I was pointing out that there is an argument that the term “hero” is not appropriate here. The first place I read that view was on PPRuNe. When people do something that saves lives they often say “hero” without thinking about it. I try to save it for people who risk their lives when they didn’t have to.

Do you think that everyone who says “I was just doing my job” are saying it out of modesty? Some honestly don’t see themselves as heroes and wouldn’t want to be called one.

January 17, 2009 @ 10:57 pm | Comment

Do you think that everyone who says “I was just doing my job” are saying it out of modesty?

Usually. (And it should be everyone IS, not ARE.)

Anyway, this is a strange argument. Okay, the captain wasn’t a hero. Sheesh.

January 17, 2009 @ 11:15 pm | Comment

Richard, you don’t have to agree with me – it’s clear you think he is. I’m not sure he is though I think he is an excellent professional who kept calm in a difficult situation – now that really is a piece of praise he would like.

January 17, 2009 @ 11:19 pm | Comment

My brother flies the Airbus A320. I called him when it happened with some of the details. He’s taken off and landed at LaGuardia for many many years. He was astounded at the decision and the success of it. It’s a one in a million experience.

January 19, 2009 @ 1:18 am | Comment

Yo! I think that that was a heros job!!!

NICE!

January 27, 2009 @ 5:47 am | Comment

Ice ice baby

January 27, 2009 @ 5:49 am | Comment

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