The Pilot of the 'Miracle on Hudson' Weighs In On the Airplane-Drone Debate
Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was the pilot behind the miraculous water landing in New York City's Hudson River back in 2009. For those of you who need a memory jog, the plane carried through with an emergency landing after a series of bird strikes caused the airplane's engines to fail. All 155 people onboard evacuated the aircraft unharmed and Sully was soon after regarded as a hero forhis impressive flying. Since the feat, the captain has been an important commentator on air travel safety topics and he's decided to jump in on a more recent debate with a few words: the increasing number of drones in the sky and how it affects airplanes. As we mentioned earlier this week, drone sightings by pilots have doubled this year, adding another in-flight hazard to the list. Sully's take: If birds can take down a full plane, a drone—which can be five to six times heavier—could potentially do much more damage.
“Imagine what a device containing hard parts like batteries and motors can do that might weigh 25 or possibly up to 55 pounds to bring down an airplane," Sully says. "It is not a matter of if it will happen. It is a matter of when it will happen.” His words aren't meant to alarm. In a write-up on Fortune, he calls for "better risk management, better regulation of the recreational drone industry, and more enforcement of those regulations when drone operators do what he describes as 'stupid, reckless, dangerous things.'” The idea isn't to limit freedom, but find a happy balance between technology use and safety. His real question: “How do we balance between undue delay and forcing people who fly to accept risk that they really shouldn’t have to accept? We do need to have a way for people to address business opportunities. We do need a way for people to use emerging technologies. But it should not be and need not be at the expense of having people who fly accept a level or risk that they should not have to accept. It is much more important to get it right than to get it fast.”
This isn't the only hot topic Sully has taken on. The pilot also had a few words on Laguardia's controversial $4 billion redesign—specifically on the runway length (spoiler: it's no good).
Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.