by now most of us are familiar with the near-miraculous landing of US Airways flight 1549, using the hudson river as an emergency runway following bird strikes that disabled both engines on the Airbus A320 shortly after takeoff from new york's la guardia airport. the story makes me doubly excited and proud -- partly because, as an aviation enthusiast for over a decade, i understand the sterling professionalism and perfect judgment of the pilot, 57 year old chesley b. sullenberger III (sully), who flew u.s. air force F-4 Phantoms, my favorite fighter-bomber from the vietnam era. his long military and civilian experience, combined with the rigorous monthly training which all airline pilots undergo, turned a potential disaster into a source of pride and inspiration. all 150 passengers and 5 crew members were evacuated safely from the downed plane by the prompt response of rescue craft and nearby civilian boats. and in the noble tradition of the sea and the air, the pilot was the last off, after walking the length of his floating plane through knee-deep water to make certain that no one had been left behind.
be sure to check out the interactive graphic showing the flight (third entry under "multimedia" in the article), in the first link above. then imagine yourself as (a) a passenger on that plane, and (b) as the pilot. it takes my breath away.