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“Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger took Giant Leaps

Alumni Giant Leaps Psychological Sciences

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

January 15, 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson” crash landing, piloted by Purdue alumnus Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

Purdue University Psychological Sciences Professor Ernest J. McCormick, an internationally-known legend in human factors, was the academic advisor for Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III who earned his master’s degree in human factors in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Purdue in 1973.

“In every encounter with another person, there is an opportunity, for good, for ill, or for indifference. We just have to choose what it is going to be. At the end of our life, we will ask ourselves a question: ‘Did I make a difference?’

I hope your answer will be yes.”

Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III, speaking at Purdue University during his presentation “208 Seconds: A Lifetime of Lessons” on February 24, 2019

More than thirty years later, Sullenberger was the pilot who masterfully landed the U.S. Airways plane on the Hudson River and saved the lives of one-hundred-fifty-five people on January 15, 2009, after a flock of geese disabled the plane’s engines. After his gallant feat, Sullenberger spoke throughout the United States about the business of human factors in flying—matching human and machine—and how those human factors helped him land an airplane safely in the water.

Chesley Sullenberger safely landed a disabled aircraft in the Hudson River

In 2011, Sullenberger returned to Purdue to receive an honorary doctorate and serve as the commencement speaker.

McCormick died in 1990 not knowing of the heroic act of Sullenberger, his student of human factors.

Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger lands in the Hudson
Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger lands in the Hudson, painted by James Werner 

During Indiana’s Bicentennial celebration in 2016, Sullenberger was featured in the West Lafayette Public Library’s exhibition, Pop! Goes PurdueThe project featured works from local artists who highlighted pop culture figures from Purdue University as their subject matter.

The famed Purdue alumnus was also portrayed by actor Tom Hanks in the autobiographical film Sully.

Portions were excerpted from Giant Leaps for Better Lives: The History and Untold Stories of the People of Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences by Angie Klink. The book will be available for purchase online and in select stores November 2019.

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