I travel pretty frequently for both work and pleasure. Last year, I logged more than 35,000 actual flight miles on USAirways alone.
Earlier this year, I chatted with a pilot enroute to Dallas who was traveling on American Airlines as a passenger. We were recounting the tragedy of Comair Flight 5191 in Lexington, Ky., where my distant cousin, Scarlett Parsley and her newlywed husband Jon Hooker were passengers. The pilot flew Airbus planes for USAirways, and he assured me that USAirways pilots are among the best trained in the industry. Because the pilots were ultimately blamed for the crash in Lexington, he explained flight safety as a chain. All elements of a chain need to be strong -- among them, the pilot, air traffic control and the aircraft itself (and a long list of other links). If any link of the chain is broken or weak, it could lead to catastrophe.
That's why I was glad to read about the level-headed, quick thinking of Chesley B. Sullenburger, the hero pilot of Flight 1549 who safely landed an Airbus A320 in the frigid Hudson river in New York City after the plane hit a flock of birds, cutting both engines.
Sullenburger's decision to ditch the plane in the water instead of attempting to land the ill-fated plane back at LaGuardia or Teterboro undoubtedly saved the lives of all 155 on board. As a frequent flier, I tip my hat to him (and the rest of the crew) in appreciation.