The Recurring SullenburgerPosted: June 8, 2011
US Airways Flight 1549 left New York, bound for Charlotte on a cold day quite some time ago. This week it will finally make it to the airport here in Charlotte, over two years late. That is sure to really screw up the airline’s on time arrival statistics, but I don’t think anyone minds so much.
I didn’t know until about three days after the flight landed in the Hudson River that someone I once worked with was on the plane. A co-worker told me about it and pointed out our friend on one of those iconic photos of the passengers and crew of the Airbus standing on the wings of the plane. I’m grateful he’s OK. People all over Charlotte have stories of knowing someone on the plane. Some of them are even exciting and scary. I think we’re all going to be glad to see the jet here on Saturday.
Two weeks after the flight I had plans to fly to Northern Virginia to see friends. Constant news coverage of the flight must have crawled way up into my subconscious because I kept having this dream right before the trip…
The dream starts in an airport. I’m sitting at the gate, waiting for my flight. The other passengers at the gate seem very excited, but I don’t know why. At first, I think it is just a large group traveling together. I soon realize it isn’t a group trip. Everyone on the flight is beside themselves with anticipation, except me. As the gate agent calls passengers to board, the cheering is so loud I can barely tell when it is my turn to get on the plane.
I have a window seat. The people seated next to me tell me how lucky I am to have the window. I tell them I picked it when I checked in. It astonishes them that such a thing could happen. I’m pretty sure I am on a plane full of fools.
Ship Of Fools
The flight leaves the airport. Things aboard the plane seem pretty routine, if you can put aside all the excitement.
I’m a little irritated at all the other passengers and their carrying on. It is as if everyone is in on whatever is happening…everyone except me. I put my earphones in and listen to my iPod to drown it all out. My seatmates are incredulous that I’d do that and openly point at me while they talk. I can’t hear them, but I can pick up the gist of what they’re talking about. They’re pretty sure they’re sitting with a fool.
I look out the window. We’re flying very low. This seems odd. I look at the other passengers and the flight attendants. None of them seem concerned so I don’t press the issue. In real life, I’m certain this is something I would bring up with someone. We’re really low. We stay low throughout the entire flight.
I’m watching the world go by, not far under the plane. An announcement comes over the plane’s intercom system and through my iPod. A male voice calls out “Final Approach.” The plane erupts in cheers. I am still trying to figure out how the announcement came through my iPod.
The jet begins circling the town we’re going to land in. Over and over, we circle. We’re getting lower. The circle becomes erratic, the banks get steeper. The rate of decent varies. The passengers are beside themselves with excitement. They’re screaming like they’re at a rock concert. I’m scared.
We’re maybe a thousand feet off the ground now, it is obvious we are about to land. The rest of the passengers are chanting “go, go, go”.We keep descending, I don’t see an airport. I don’t see other planes.
The plane lands, without wheels, and belly slides across the ground. We slide across a wide grassy lawn. I’m sitting at the window, so I can see the flaps come up and the engines reverse to slow the jet like in a normal landing, which this clearly is not. The front end of the plane pushes through the front doors of a large mall and comes to a stop. It is quiet for a moment, as if everyone is waiting for something.
The flight attendant announces “welcome to Buffalo, New York. The local time is 5:17 p.m.”. The passengers go wild.
I’m not sure why I am in Buffalo. I don’t know anyone in Buffalo.
The cockpit door opens and Captain Chesley Sullenburger steps out, arms in the air, acknowledging the cheers. He pumps his fist. He is yelling back at the crowd, keeping them fired up while a podium is set up behind him. Sully moves to the podium and begins a lecture on how he picked today’s landing site and how pleased he was that the plane slid into the mall up to the wings, just like he planned.
People are standing outside the plane, looking in the window. I’m sobbing. They’re laughing, as if I’m wrong to be completely confused and frightened by this. My seatmates push the button to call the flight attendant and ask to be reseated away from me.
Buh Bye. Buh Bye.
I’m the last passenger off the plane. Buses have arrived to take us to the airport. I finally find an official who explains to me that I was on a special Sullenburger flight.
According to this official, when the airline schedules a Sullenburger flight, it guarantees that the plane will land in the destination city, but not at the airport. Then, as I saw, Captain Sullenburger delivers a lecture on that day’s flight, including how he decided where to land. This official could not believe I’d unwittingly booked myself on the flight. He lets me know how fortunate I was to even get on the flight.
I don’t agree, and I don’t want to be in Buffalo.
The Recurring Sullenburger dream pops up occasionally out of my subconscious. I have no idea what it means. I am not a nervous flyer, but it does sometimes come back when I am about to fly somewhere. The strange thing is, even though I have had the same dream several times, it scares me each time. It does that, even though I know the ending.
I don’t foresee having to go to Buffalo. I’m sure it is a fine place, but I don’t know a soul who lives there. If I do end up going there I’m flying somewhere close and renting a car for the rest of the trip, just in case.
Welcome to Charlotte, 1549. Please get out of my head, ok? Buh Bye.
If youre interested in tracking the plane online as it is driven to Charlotte, the company that is moving it has an online map here.