Eastwood in Kearny for ‘Sully’

Wikipedia Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger
Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger


Hollywood came to Kearny again last week in the person of veteran film personality Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood, who visited Kearny in October 2013 to shoot portions of his film “Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons,” brought his production company, Kiki Tree Pictures of Burbank, Calif., to the Helo Holdings heliport in south Kearny Sept. 28.

This time, according to a film permit application filed with the Town Clerk’s Office, the mission was “filming scenes for the movie ‘Sully’ at HHI Heliport, 165 Western Road.”

“Sully” is described by IMDb (Internet Movie Data base) as a drama which tells “the story of American pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, who heroically landed a troubled aircraft full of passengers on the Hudson River.”

According to IMDb, the film is reportedly being directed by Eastwood, based on a screenplay credited to Todd Komarnicki and book by Sullenberger and stars Tom Hanks as Sullenberger and Laura Linney as Lorraine Sullenberger, the pilot’s wife.

Official information on the production was hard to come by. Neither New York location manager Nathan Gendzler, nor publicist Frances Fiore offered any news and personnel at the heliport told The Observer that a “non-disclosure agreement” with the film company prohibited them from talking.

Still, taking a cue from the scant information contained in the film permit application – which required the payment of a $2,000 filming fee for a full day of shooting on the site – it appeared that little or no action involving the film’s principals had been shot that day.

The film application said that shooting would focus on “dialogue scene in hangar and on tarmac as pilots get the call to respond to emergency” and “scene(s) of two helicopters taking off/landing at heliport. After filming the scenes that take place at the heliport, we will continue to use it as a base of operations while helicopters go off on their own to film shots over Hudson River.”

It was estimated that the film company would use an “adjacent lot for truck parking from River Terminal Development Co.” to park “five to six trucks plus four 15-passenger vans.”

Just how closely Eastwood plans to hew to the real life story line of what happened on Jan. 15, 2009, when the scary water landing occurred, or, for that matter, to the pilot’s life, is unclear.

What is clear, as folks may remember from news accounts of the time, is that Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III managed to carry out an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan after a flock of Canadian geese struck the plane following its takeoff from LaGuardia Airport, thereby disabling the aircraft.

All of the 155 passengers and crew members were safely evacuated from the plane as it floated in the Hudson.

Sullenberger authored the New York Times best-seller, “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,” a memoir that includes the 2009 landing, published that same year by HarperCollins. Three years later, he published “Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage from America’s Leaders.”

As chronicled by Wikipedia, Sullenberger grew up in Denison, Texas, and, as a boy, watched jets take off from nearby Perrin Air Force Base. He enjoyed building model planes and aircraft carriers. At age 12, he was admitted to Mensa International, the so-called “genius” society and, at age 16, he learned to fly in an Aeronca 7DC from an airstrip near his home.

He enrolled at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1969 and by year’s end, he qualified as an instructor glider pilot. At graduation, Sullenberger was rated Outstanding Cadet in Airmanship as his class’s top flyer. Between 1975 and 1979, he was a fighter pilot for the Air Force, reaching the rank of captain and serving as a flight leader, training officer and member of an aircraft accident investigation board.

Between 1980 and 2010, Sullenberger was a pilot for US Airways and in 2007 he became founder/CEO of Safety Reliability Methods, a management, safety, performance and reliability consulting firm and assisted the National Transportation Safety Board in investigating several air crashes.

In February 2009, Sullenberger testified before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure that airlines were under “pressure to hire people with less experience [whose] salaries are so low that people with greater experience will not take those jobs. We have some carriers that have hired some pilots with only a few hundred hours of experience. … There’s simply no substitute for experience in terms of aviation safety.” He also mentioned that his pay had been trimmed by 40% and his retirement plan replaced by a far inferior Pension Board Guaranty Corp. pension.

On Jan. 15, 2009, Sullenberger was piloting an Airbus A320 that departed LaGuardia, enroute to Charlotte/Douglas Intl. Airport, when soon after takeoff, he reported to air traffic control that the plane had hit a large flock of birds, taking out both engines. After concluding that ditching in the river was the only option available, Sullenberger cautioned the plane’s occupants to “brace for impact” and guided the plane to a landing in the Hudson at 3:31 p.m.

In recounting the episode, Sullenberger said: “It was very quiet as we worked, my co-pilot and I. We were a team. But to have zero thrust coming out of those engines was shocking – the silence.”

Although then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg dubbed Sullenberger “Captain Cool” for his calm, decisive action, the veteran pilot later revealed that he had suffered symptoms of PTSD, including insomnia and flashbacks, for several weeks after the crash.

In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Sullenberger said the moments before the crash were “the worst sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through- the-floor feeling” that he’d ever gone through.

But, putting it another way, he told the interviewer, “… that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on Jan. 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”

Learn more about the writer ...