The crash landing that became known as the Miracle on the Hudson gets the big screen treatment this week with the release of Clint Eastwood’s Sully, which focuses on Flight 1549 captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the aftermath of that fateful day in 2009. As our Mike Ryan noted in his review of the film, there’s not a lot of tension to the story since we know that everyone survives, and the movie seems a bit padded with filler once the pivotal crash sequence ends. So why not throw in some drama about the ensuing investigation, and the evil folks behind it at the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board?
It turns out that the real-life NTSB investigators aren’t exactly pleased with their portrayal as the film’s villains, and are speaking out about the inaccuracies in their onscreen depiction. In an interview with Bloomberg, now-retired lead investigator Robert Benzon compared the ridiculousness of Sully to the Sharknado series, and told the outlet that he and his fellow NTSB investigators were “getting the dirty end of the stick.” Malcolm Brenner, another retired NTSB employee who interviewed Sullenberger in the days after the accident, told Bloomberg, “There was no effort to crucify him or embarrass him,” unlike what the film portrays.
On the contrary, Brenner told Bloomberg he was “very impressed” with Sullenberger’s decision-making, and while the NTSB did question whether the captain could have made it back to LaGuardia rather than opt for a water landing, it ultimately determined that his actions were justified. The official report following the investigation stated, “The NTSB concludes that the captain’s decision to ditch on the Hudson River rather than attempting to land at an airport provided the highest probability that the accident would be survivable.”
For his part, Sullenberger maintains that the film “reflects the many challenges that I faced and successfully overcame both during and after the flight.” As Brenner told Bloomberg, “Any good story has to have a villain.” Looks like Sully may have taken some liberties with who that villain actually was. (Everyone knows it was really the geese.)