What New York Taught Me About Experience

The recent “Miracle on the Hudson” reminds me that in many situations, there is no substitute for experience.

All of the individuals involved in saving lives on Thursday were skilled and experienced professionals. Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger is reported to be a 40 year veteran of the air. While I suspect most of the dispatchers, police, fire, port workers, ferry operators, and health providers, can’t match the Captain for years on the job, their training, experience and retraining resulted in a prompt and coordinated response to the accident. Kudos to all of the first responders for a job well done!

So much that I’ve heard about the accident to date focuses on the decision-making and heroism of Captain Sullenberger. For example, he made multiple split-second calculations and decisions about where and how to land the plane. His agile mind knew that that the chances for survival in a water landing were improved if the landing gear were closed and the wings remained attached to the fuselage after water impact. His commitment to passenger safety included taking proactive steps to ensure that everyone got out before he exited the plane.

Could a rookie pilot have gotten all this right? I don’t know. It is, however, refreshing to see a veteran perform as expected–and get the appropriate credit for his experience.

While I’m not tasked with public safety or life and death decisions, Captain Sullenberger made me reflect on some of my own decisions, especially those where experience was weighed against other criteria such as desire for something new, youthful charm or perceived cost savings from selecting a junior contributor.

All I can say is experience is on a strong uptick…