Hero pilot Sully of ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ fame slams ‘absurdly low’ number of training hours for Ethiopian Airlines pilots after deadly crash
- Captain Sullenberger, 68, wrote a Facebook post Thursday addressing Sunday’s accident that killed 157 passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302
- Retired US Airways pilot raised questions about the design of Boeing 737-8 MAX
- He also drew attention to the 200 hours of flight that the first officer on the flight was reported to have had under his belt, calling the number ‘absurdly low’
- For comparison, American commercial pilots must have at least 1,500 before getting their certification
Captain Chesley B Sullenberger III, who gained international fame in 2009 when he landed a disabled commercial jetliner in the Hudson River, saving everyone on board, has criticized the training Ethiopian Airlines pilots after the airline’s deadly crash.
Sullenberger, 68, a retired US Airways pilot-turned-safety advocate, shared a lengthy post on his Facebook page Thursday addressing Sunday’s accident that killed 157 passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
The hero of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ began by stating that while the cause of the the disaster is still unknown, the common denominator between this week’s tragedy and the Lion Air Flight 610 crash in Indonesia that happened last October is that both involved a Boeing 737-8 MAX.
Captain Chesley B Sullenberger III on Thursday publicly weighed in on Sunday’s accident that killed 157 passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302
Sullenberger addressed the design of the Boeing 737-8 MAX and the ‘absurdly low’ number of flight hours that the first officer of the doomed plane had under his belt
‘It has been obvious since the Lion Air crash that a redesign of the 737 MAX 8 has been urgently needed, yet has still not been done, and the announced proposed fixes do not go far enough,’ Sullenberger wrote.
The Lion Air incident claimed 189 lives when the plane plunged into the Java Sea a shot time after takeoff.
Much of the world, including the US, the entire European Union and Australia, has grounded the Boeing jetliner from their airspace.
Sullenberger, who had logged more than 20,000 hours of flight by the time he landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the frigid waters of the Hudson following a bird strike, in what became known as the ‘Miracle on the Hudson,’ wrote that 200 hours is ‘an absurdly low amount for someone in the cockpit of a jet airliner.’
Forensics experts comb through the dirt for debris at the crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines operated Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, at Hama Quntushele village in Oromia region, on March 14
All 157 passengers and crew on board Flight 302 perished in Sunday’s crash
He continued: ‘We do not yet know what challenges the pilots faced or what they were able to do, but everyone who is entrusted with the lives of passengers and crew by being in a pilot seat of an airliner must be armed with the knowledge, skill, experience, and judgment to be able to handle the unexpected and be the absolute master of the aircraft and all its systems, and of the situation.’
Tom Hanks as Sullenberger in Clint Eastwood’s 2016 film Sully
The celebrated pilot, whose dramatic emergency landing became the subject of Clint Eastwood’s 2016 film, Sully, starring Tom Hanks as Sullenberger, noted that a pilot ‘with only 200 hours’ would not know how to ‘collaborate wordlessly’ with other crew members in case of an extreme emergency.
‘Someone with that low amount of time would have only flown in a closely supervised, sterile training environment, not the challenging and often ambiguous real world of operational flying, would likely never have experienced a serious aircraft malfunction, would have seen only one cycle of the seasons of the year as a pilot, one spring with gusty crosswinds, one summer of thunderstorms,’ Sullenberger added.
He concluded by putting the onus on airlines not to place pilots in the cockpit before they are ‘fully ready.’
‘While we don’t know what role, if any, pilot experience played in this most recent tragedy, it should always remain a top priority at every airline,’ Sullenberger wrote. ‘Everyone who flies depends upon it.’
Sullenberger was dubbed a national hero for safely ditching a US Airways plane (pictured) into the Hudson river