The so-called “Miracle on the Hudson” was anything but, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger said while sharing his thoughts on the upcoming biographical film drama that retells the story of his 2009 emergency water landing.
US Airways flight 1549 was taking off from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, seven years ago when it was disabled after hitting a flock of Canada geese. Sully and his first officer glided the plane into the river before the crew evacuated all 155 passengers from the partially submerged plane that eventually sank.
The real-life Sully said he wasn't sure how they could make the movie exciting. "And that's the same question I'm told Clint Eastwood had," Sullenberger, now 65, said.
Eastwood set out to share the story in a way never before seen, from up in the air where those who weren't on the plane would have never known, showing the intimate moments between captain and crew.
Having Oscar-winner Hanks play Sully was something indescribable for the retired airplane captain. "It's almost an out of body experience to see things that first officer Jeff Skiles and I said in the cockpit together, played by actors," Sully said.
Sully said Hanks asked for his opinions throughout the film, adding that he was "going to give them, regardless."
The film reveals a part of the story most don't know exists, lending insight into the 18-month National Transportation Safety Board investigation to determine whether Sullenberger's actions and decisions were proper.
Sully admitted he questioned himself many times, whether he'd done the right thing. "The constant second-guessing, what if-ing, especially in the dark of the night."
The time that elapsed between when the bird strike occurred to the water landing was a mere 208 seconds. In just under three and a half minutes, Sully used his experience, combined with a gut decision, to attempt that emergency landing on the Hudson River.
"The only training we had ever gotten for this was a theoretical classroom discussion," Sully said.
Even in their flight simulator, Sully said, "it was not possible to practice a water landing."
And he bristles at the notion that the crew did something heroic "You see, we didn't choose to rush into a burning building to pull someone out,” he said. “This was a situation that was forced upon us."
Had the events played out differently, Sully said, this would be another narrative entirely. "Had even one passenger not survived that, it would've changed the character of this event for me entirely,” he said. “I couldn't have celebrated any of this."
While his humbling words hold true, for many -- namely the 155 passengers and the crew onboard that aircraft -- Sully's actions are worth celebrating and sharing.
"Sully" opens in theaters nationwide next Friday, Sept. 9.