Why Crash Investigators Are A Little Annoyed By Sully

Tom Hanks as Sully

Most movies structured around the actions of a hero need a proper villain. However, when telling the heroic story of US Airways pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks couldn't vilify the dumb birds who got in the way of Sully's jet engines. That would be silly. So they chose to mine drama from the investigation that followed Sullenberger's miraculous landing on the Hudson River, which led to the survival of everyone one board the aircraft. Only, as you might imagine, this Hollywood decision has ruffled a few feathers with the investigators who actually looked over Sullenberger's case back in 2012.

Robert Benzon, a veteran of the National Transportation Safety Board who actually investigated the Miracle on the Hudson, was asked about the portrayal of the NTSB in Clint Eastwood's movie, Sully, as villains -- though, mild villains, by all accounts of people who have seen the film prior to its Sept. 9 release date. Benzon hasn't yet seen the film, but he had seen the ads, and he vented to Bloomberg:

I think we're getting the dirty end of the stick here. From what I hear, this is somewhere between 'Sharknado 2' and 'Sharknado 3.' I just hope it isn't as bad as everyone is telling me it is.

From everything that we have heard, it isn't that bad, but we just love Benzon's quote so much, we had to run with it. Still, if you continue to listen to the NTSB, they are annoyed by the fact that no one associated with the movie asked them for their side of Sully's story, because by their accounts, they were nothing but respectful to the long-time pilot, and they did everything that they could to maintain the story line that Chesley Sullenberger acted heroically in the face of unprecedented danger.

Still, in a statement released to Bloomberg, the NTSB claims:

The NTSB was not asked to contribute to or participate in the production of 'Sully' and as such we were not afforded an opportunity to ensure our actions and words were portrayed with accurate context or reflected our perspective.

They went on to refer to this as "is a movie-worthy moment in aviation history."

But I suppose I can understand why they are a little annoyed. If, at the time, the National Transportation Safety Board went to great lengths to bolster Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's actions, only to see those motions slightly warped in a Hollywood movie, I'd be a little miffed. Still, Sully is told from the perspective of Capt. Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), so he likely looked at the investigators doing their job in the moment with a little bit of disdain. Plus, as retired NTSB specialist in human behavior Malcolm Brenner maturely concludes in the Bloomberg piece, "Any good story has to have a villain."

Sully opens in theaters on Friday, Sept. 9.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.