Resilience – a case study

by | Feb 10, 2009

60 Minutes had the first interview with the crew of the US Airways flight that crash landed in the Hudson over the weekend, including accounts of the crash from the pilot and from the entire crew.

Amanda Ripley has some good commentary over on her blog, noting how much of Sully’s account echoes themes set out in her book The Unthinkable, which was a book of the year for most of us at Global Dashboard.

As she observes, Sully’s first reaction was disbelief – “‘I can’t believe this is happening. This doesn’t happen to me.’… I had this expectation that my career would be one in which I wouldn’t crash an airplane.” – a classic reaction to disaster, and much more common than panic or hysteria. Ripley also quotes Sully’s description of the crew’s reaction to his announcement that the plane would be going down:

I made the brace for impact announcement in the cabin, and immediately, through the hardened cockpit door, I heard the flight attendants begin shouting their commands in response to my command to brace: heads down, stay down, I could hear them clearly and they were chanting it in unison over and over again to warn them, to instruct them, and I felt very comforted by that. I knew immediately that they were on the same page. That if I could land the airplane, that they could get them out safely.

That these commands were shouted was crucial to overcome the passengers’ own disbelief – as two of the cabin crew note, some of the passengers were looking out of the window rather than bracing, while others were making calls on their cellphones.

The whole thing’s worth watching – including 60 Minutes’ footage of the reunion between the crew and the passengers if you want to get all misted up.


  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.

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