Flight 1549: Too Busy Flying to Pray

God had nothing to do with saving Flight 1549, as I’ve argued.

Recently the pilot of the plane, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, explained to Katie Couric just what did save the day:

Asked if he at any point prayed, he told Couric, “I would imagine somebody in back was taking care of that for me while I was flying the airplane.”

“My focus at that point was so intensely on the landing,” he said. “I thought of nothing else.”

There were just three and a half minutes for Captain Sullenberger to accomplish what only a few commercial airline pilots had ever done, and he was determined to avoid the fate of an Ethiopian airliner, which landed in the Indian Ocean in 1996 and broke into pieces, killing most of the passengers on board.

“What were some of the things you had to do to make this landing successful?” Couric asked.

“I needed to touch down with the wings exactly level. I needed to touch down with the nose slightly up. I needed to touch down at a descent rate that was survivable. And I needed to touch down just above our minimum flying speed but not below it. And I needed to make all these things happen simultaneously,” he explained.

And he had to keep his cool. “The physiological reaction I had to this was strong, and I had to force myself to use my training and force calm on the situation,” he said.

He told Couric that wasn’t a hard thing to do. “It just took some concentration.”

This is an amazing story of human courage. To pretend that God somehow saved the plane (apparently after allowing it to crash land) only detracts from the true causes of the happy ending: thoughtful action by pilot, crew, and passengers.