If you needed evidence that companies should hold on to their older and experienced workers, look no future than Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the 57-year-old pilot of US Airways flight 1549 that crash-landed into the Hudson River yesterday. All 155 passengers and crew on the flight, which left LaGuardia airport in New York, but never made it to Charlotte, N.C., survived. “He’s proof positive that older workers still got it,” comments Renee Ward, founder and publisher of Seniors4Hire.org, a job website for older workers. Here’s a look at some key factors in Sullenberger's resume that may have contributed to his quick action under pressure.
Experience matters. Sullenberger's experience appears to have prepared him for dangerous and unexpected situations. He has spent over 40 years flying planes, including seven years in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot. He joined US Airways in 1980.
Leadership roles. Sullenberger also hasn’t shied away from teaching or leadership positions. The Danville, Calif. resident served as a flight instructor, helped develop and implement a crew resource management course, and served as Air Line Pilots Association safety chairman.
Accident prevention. To the passengers on flight 1549, Sullenberger's skill and expertise are apparent. Sullenberger runs a safety consulting firm, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. On his website he promotes himself as an expert in safety, high performance, high reliability leadership, and culture change. (You can view his two and a half page resume here.) Sullenberger has participated in several Air Force and National Transportation Safety Board accident investigations. He also coauthored a paper on error and aviation with NASA scientists.
Education. Sullenberger is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy (B.S.), Purdue University (M.S.), and the University of Northern Colorado (M.A.).
This pilot has inspired over 2 dozen fan clubs on Facebook, the largest of which has over 2 thousand members.