Is Sully Based on a True Story?

Premiered in 2016, Sully is one of the most captivating aviation films in Hollywood history. Directed by Client Eastwood’s excellent direction and Hanks’ masterful performance, it’s a biographical drama that portrays the real-life incident that happened over the Hudson River on the afternoon of 15 January 2009. But Is Sully based on an entirely true story?

Is Sully Based on a True Story?

Yes, Sully is a biographical drama which is based on a true incident, involving US Airways Flight 1549, its pilots, and 155 individuals onboard. While most of us came to know about the incident through the news, the movie goes into great detail about how the crew maintained their composure, and within minutes, made a bold yet correct decision to land the aircraft on the Hudson River, instead of following the protocol to attempt landing at the nearest airport (LaGuardia and Teterboro).

Here, it’s crucial to note that the whole incident unfolded in barely over 3 minutes, followed by the rescue operation. After the dust settled, not much information surfaced regarding what happened to Capt. Sully – Did he manage to keep his job or whether he makes the right decision? Yes, he was held as a national hero for several days and even interacted with the media and actual passengers from that ill-fated flight, but little was known about the man himself and the miraculous feat he accomplished.

So how did the director transform a 3-minute incident into a 96-minute drama? While the first half is mostly consumed in the airport scenes, engine failure, landing, and rescue operation, the second half film goes on to show how the insurance companies and NTSB officials tried to frame Sully, suggesting it was a bad decision to ditch the plane on the Hudson. This is where you get to see multiple sides of Captain Sully, who feels uncomfortable facing the limelight, feels sad about the media accusing him and his family, shows disappointment toward investigators, and similar instances. 

However, the film fails to answer many crucial questions and feels somewhat anti-climax, it does manage to portray the entire sequence of events with great detail, saying as close to realism as possible.

What is the plot of the Sully Movie?

The movie opens at LaGuardia Airport where Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) prepare the US Airways Flight 1549 from New York to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Just three minutes into the flight, the aircraft collides with a flock of Canadian Goose, damaging both engines one after another. Before the crew knows what has happened, both engines lose thrust, and it all happens at an elevation of mere 2,800 feet (850 meters). 

However, within seconds, he realizes that the engines don’t have the necessary power and altitude to make it to the runway without risking a midair crash. The instant decision to attempt the landing on the Hudson is made, which turns out to be the correct one. 

On one hand, Sully is hailed as a national hero, but the folks from the insurance agency and National Transport Safety Board believe it was feasible to land the plane at any of the two airports, as their simulation runs proved. 

Sully opposes that the simulations aren’t able to tell the real-life complexity, as they don’t consider human factors. The board agrees with Sully and instructs the pilots to rerun the simulations with an added 35 seconds, which results in the plane crash before reaching any of the nearest airports. 

Who is Captain Sully?

Born on January 23, 1951, Sully Sullenberger is a retired diplomat, a fighter pilot, and an airline professional who served at US Airways for nearly 3 decades. Born to descendants of Swiss-German immigrants, Sully consistently excelled in every competitive and academic exam he undertook and soon became interested in the aviation industry. According to his sister, he used to craft model planes in childhood and developed a passion for flying after seeing the fighter jets from the Air Force base near the house. 

After a brief stint in the military, he was hired by US Airways as a commercial pilot where he would end his career in 2010, interestingly right after the unfortunate Flight 1549 incident. Since then, Sully has been known as an aviation safety pioneer and has helped develop several new SAFETY PROTOCOLS. He was ranked second in Time’s Top 100 Most Influential Heroes and Icons of 2009. 


1. Where to watch Sully’s full movie?

Sully – The Miracle of the Hudson is available to watch on many OTT platforms, such as Amazon Prime Video, Google Movies, Apple TV, YouTube Movies, etc. 

2. Did Sully ever fly again?

After the Hudson incident, Sully didn’t return to commercial flying. He decided to retire from the US Airways after 30 years of service. 

3. How much did Sully get paid for the movie?

The amount paid to Captain Sully for the movie was never disclosed. However, the movie earned more than $240 million at the Global box office.

4. Did Sully make the right decision?

After numerous inquiries and simulation runs, it was stated that Captain Sully Made a brave but right decision, which helped him save 155 lives. 

Final Word

The film Sully not only narrates what could be one of the most horrible aviation accidents in the history of America but also shows the human nature and the resilience required when met with unforeseen challenges, especially by the individuals working in the aviation industry.

It also highlights how the media and society often are in a hurry to declare someone a bad guy, without considering their emotions, family, and hardships. This 96-minute drama will surely make you feel the tension and heroism, and might even leave you with a couple of tears by the end. 

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