Sully: Kelly Sullenbeger


On 15th January 2009,  US Airways Flight 1549 which, three minutes after take-off from New York City’s LaGuardia, struck a flock of Canada Geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and consequently lost all engine power. Unable to reach any airport, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane to a ditching in the Hudson River off midtown Manhattan. All 155 people aboard were rescued by nearby boats and there were few serious injuries. It was reported that immediately after the bird strike, Captain Sullenberger contacted the Air Controllers and obtained permission to land in the Teleboro Airport as he felt it was impossible to land back at LaGuardia airport as the altitude was very low. But unfortunately Captain felt that the altitude was very low to land it in Teleboro Airport too and hence decided to land it in the Hudson River. This incident was called as the “Miracle of the Hudson” and “The most successful ditching in the Aviation history”. A investigation was made on the incident and later on it was concluded that landing in the Hudson River was the best option that the Captain had to save the 155 passengers on-board. This incident propelled Captain Chesley Sullenberger to national fame. A Movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, was made on this incident [ Sully(2016) ].


Amongst the lot of emotions that was running in my mind after watching the movie, I really wanted to know about the emotions that Kelly and Kate, the 2 daughters of Chesley Sullenberger, would have had in those days of turmoil after that life changing event, when they had to face some events that no one ever imagined would happen. It is hard to replicate the feelings of a person whom i hardly know and who’s miles away from me. So I tried to collect as many information, it was possible to collect through the internet, and give a near perfect culmination about the emotion that was going through in the minds of Kelly Sullenberger. I read blog posts posted by other people who knew Kelly,and her neighbour; I stalked their Instagram and Facebook accounts to find something which would help me write this. So every detailing i have done is very precise to an extent, like the sense of humour of her sister Kate or the fact that her most memorable family outing was to the Disney Land. So let me tell you that this just an imaginary writing and it is not meant to disrespect or to harm the person concerned or any other person related to her.


Hello there. This is Kelly Sullenberger. I have always been reluctant to share my experiences during the famous January 15 2009 event and what happened the days following that. But after all these years , now feel like expressing all those emotions through this post. This is about the daughter of a famous pilot who landed a passenger Airbus US Flight 1549, which was in a very critical state after a bird strike left both the engines damaged, on Hudson River to save 155 lives. This is about a 14 year old girl who lived through an incident which endangered her father’s life and also which made her witness her hero become her nation’s hero. But more than that, this is about a daughter who was worried a bit more than any other day, about her father who worked as a pilot.

I still remember what we were doing that day. Kate and i were talking about the newly opened restaurant in Danville near our school.  We were just playing around when Mom got a call. After brief moments she asked us to switch on the T.V and Kate immediately switched it on. That was a moment, a pilot’s kids should never ever witness. We couldn’t believe what the flash news was about.  A huge passenger Airbus was floating on a river. There was no news flashing about the details of the passengers. I was worried about the people who were in it. The news reporter started reading out the report and i immediately increased the volume of the television. As the news reporter read out that the captain of the Airbus who decided to land it on the Hudson river was Chesley Sullenberger, i started contemplating the possibilities of what would have happened and about the news that the phone call passed on to Mom.  Kate and I couldn’t control any more. We looked at mom. She would have understood how we felt. With a voice filled with firmness she said, “Daddy’s fine. He was the one who called

A fresh breathe of relief we had.

I distinctly remember the days that followed the incident. Kate and I were glued to the televisions. There was a huge crowd of reporters and media persons outside our house. We couldn’t go out even to our neighbor Kelsey Ott’s house. Dad was the talk of the week in Danville, in San Francisco bay, and in America. Dad called mom the next day and informed that it would take some more days for him to come as there was an investigation scheduled. Kate overhead mom talking to someone about how dad was finding it difficult to sleep. We were worried a lot and we couldn’t sleep properly for some nights thereafter too. Kate and I used to talk a lot and were supportive to each other during those days. Kate’s sense of humour came to good use during those days. Being the daughter of a pilot is very tough. It takes a lot to understand when your dad is out there risking his life to make good lives for your family. During one of those days, as i had to be homebound due to the huge crowd out there and since I was sick of all those theories flashed in news which were against my dad, I sat home and read all those short quotes and pictures I designed to show my dad.

On January 19th, we met dad after a long time. We were invited by the presidential elect Obama for the presidential inauguration ceremony which was scheduled the next day. Meeting Dad was a very emotional moment for us. We went out for dinner and spoke a lot. We went to the ceremony the following day. Mr & Mrs Obama were really kind and loving. On January 22nd, after receiving the Masters Medal which was awarded by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators, Daddy told us that he would be returning to Danville on 24th.

I remember how Danville celebrated his homecoming. The ceremony was like a festival. The arena had a huge banner which read , “Danville welcomes our hometown hero, Chesley.B.Sully“. Such a banner will definitely bring a smile to a lot of people who knew this hero, but the smile in your face will be different when the hero is your dad. Mayor Arnerich, Jerry Mcherney were some popular figures who graced the ceremony. I remember dad talking to me and Kate personally after the ceremony about a lot of important things, like how this attention would tend to affect our family henceforth and how we have to adapt to such environments. Maybe he learnt all that during those TV Shows that he had to attend after the incident.

We did change a lot after that. We gradually developed ourselves. We developed our potentials and became good public speakers. With Dad having such a troubled past, he was able to attract a lot of crowd with the motivation and positivity in his speeches.

Yes, being a daughter of a pilot is indeed tough. Being a daughter of such a person is truly a blessing. I could go on and share some more details about the father that he was to me, the things we used to share, like those bedtime talks, the gossips and etc, but maybe i will write another post for that.

The 1549 incident was something huge in our lives. It was that incident which split our lives into 2, “before” and “after”. I do remember each and every moment we experienced those days, though my most favourite and memorable family experience was when we went to Disney Land. Some memories won’t and are not meant to fade away isn’t?



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