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Obama's hero worship of US Airways pilot

UU S Air plane after it landed in the Hudson River instead of LaGuardia after running into geese

A week ago he had no national profile, a competent and experienced pilot for US Airways who lived in Danville, Calif., with his wife, Lorrie, and their daughters, Katie and Kelly.

But last Thursday, Capt. Chesley Sullenberger III, known as Sully, made a remarkable emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the icy waters of New York's Hudson River after the engines failed and managed to save all 155 passengers and crew on board.

On Saturday, President-elect Barack Obama personally invited the Sullenbergers -- and the plane's entire crew -- to come to Washington for the inauguration -- and to fly aboard Air Force One sometime.

And today, participating in a day of national service in honor of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Obama mentioned the pilot as he helped paint the Sasha Brown House, a shelter for at-risk children.

Paraphrasing Sullenberger as saying, "Me and my crew, we were just doing our job," Obama added, "If everybody did their job, whatever that job was, as well as that pilot did his job, we'd be in pretty good shape."

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Craig Ruttle / Associated Press

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Obama is not the only one who feel this pilot is a hero
worthy of the name. Hey you are up in the air way up there and Keep your cool enought to land the plane without engines My Lord He is one hell of a piliot
I am glad that our new president acknowledged him

One day we will all look back and view George Bush as a hero who kept US safe!

I've been in an airplane... who hasn't, right? I don't fret, but in the back of my mind there's a little voice that reminds me that I'm VERY high up. I'd like to say that I hope every pilot is as quick-thinking & inventive as this man. I will feel a little better as I hurtle through the air thousands of feet up now that I know people like Captain Sully are doing their job and are in the right job for them.


On january fifteenth, five days before Barack Obama´s presidential inauguration, a US Airways plane crush landed in New York´s Hudson river. A hundred and fifty passengers and five crew members were on board. No lives were lost. Amazing! The pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, “Sully”, is now considered a hero. He is an ex-combat pilot and at present an advisor to Safety Reliability Methods, a company founded by him to study air crew´s psychology in critical situations.

Passengers could not stop thanking him. He, who was the last to leave the plane after surveying it twice to make sure nobody had been left behind, simply answered: “Don´t mention it”.

But, there is something more to this. Let´s imagine the opposite: the plane falling over New York city which, given the circumstances, would have been the most probable outcome. How many deaths? A real tragedy. Five days away from Obama´s presidential inauguration, this would have given the press a lot to write about and people a lot to talk about. More than one would have said or thought: this is a bad start for Obama, a bad omen. But fortunately, luck proved different: there is a deadly crash without fatalities, thanks to the pilot´s avid decision and great skills.

Isn´t a pilot the most accurate symbol for a president and the passengers for the people of a nation? The world around us is constantly sending us messages, we just need to listen to them. The pilot told the passengers: “brace yourselves for a hard impact!” He didn´t lie. When death is the advisor action is a matter of nanoseconds. To face reality and act consequently saved their lives. Might Obama be the pilot and the people of the US the passengers?
President Obama couldn´t have had a better omen. An impact similar to the one of the plane hitting the water might still be ahead of us. Chances to act promptly, to take swift and lucid decisions placing people´s real needs prior to any other interests are open to Obama.

This is written by Professor Rosa Coll from Argentina.

I deeply agree with Professor Rosa Coll that this incident is both highly symbolic and potentially very good news for President Obama.

However, I also see it somewhat differently.

First, and most important, as a follower of Jesus as God I either see his loving hand in something or, in a sense, I'm not interested. I do see His hand in this incident - have done from the moment I heard about it on Thursday - so I'm extremely interested.

What was God trying to say then?

Here are two clues. Who was giving his final address to the US nation just four and a half hours after 'Sully' hit the water? Whose presidency was defined more than anything else by another plane flying at low altitude south down the Hudson, before it hit the second tower on 9/11?

So, agreed that the pilot symbolises the president and the plane the nation. But what then does the loss of power in both engines symbolise? The geese that caused that one-in-many-million event? The safe landing and rescue of all the passengers and crew? The fact the plane itself will never fly again - "except in the movies", as Kitty Higgins of the NTSB wittily put it?

It's up to everyone to come to their own conclusions on any of this - that's the freedom that the God of Jesus has given each of us - so don't take my answers as final. But I've thought and prayed about it and this is what I've come up with.

The loss of power was the loss of confidence of a large number of US citizens in their president. Without that forward-moving power the nation was in dire peril.

The geese? They took out both left and right engines, in the same moment. That speaks to me of Bush finding out that his domestic enemies were of two kinds: those who did nothing but publicly mock him, people like Jon Stewart, and those who got on with the job of making big money, silently and dishonestly. Bernie Madoff is the latest, most glaring example. Before that was Enron and many others. As I view the global warming scare as a commercial scam I'd include more subtle business operators like Maurice Strong, the man behind Kyoto. But your mileage may vary, as they say in the airline business.

What does the skill of the pilot and the amazingly joyful outcome - including brilliant teamwork and not a few hilarious moments - represent then?

For me it represents the grace of George and Laura Bush in not hitting back at their haughty critics but instead providing such an extraordinary welcome - and a very constructive handover, at such a crucial time - to Barack and Michelle Obama and their two lovely daughters.

This is a historic moment, as people rightly feel. One man is not getting very much credit. But that doesn't matter. He was, as Mr Sullenberger said, just doing his job.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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