ATW Editor's Blog

Sully video blog – reader comments & a follow up


Not surprisingly, my latest blog on “Sully” Sullenberger’s AAAA videos campaigning against US ATM reform ignited astrong response from readers. Perhaps the only surprise is that many of the responses in my emails were highly supportive.

But many more were nasty and personalized in their comments; below is a selection of quotes from those that are publishable and, sadly, these are from people who claim to be commercial pilots (or retired commercial pilots). I do not believe for one minute that they are reflective of the majority of commercial pilots, who, in my encounters, are extremely respectful and professional.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d share some of the “anti” views received and, below that, my deeper explanation for my passionate belief that US ATM reform is essential – to America, to the traveling public, to the futures of those whose jobs depend on US airlines (including pilots) and to the continued success of all US airlines.


Shut up. You are not a pilot.”

“You know nothing about aviation, you get paid by an "information services company" to spread bullshit.  After you land a disabled aircraft with loved ones onboard you can write an article.”

“You are out to lunch. After being a pilot for 40 years (military / airlines / private) I know that airlines only care about safety due to litigation concerns not moral or ethics.”

“In the aviation arena you have to have some credentials before opening your mouth or in your case a poisonous keyboard! And yours are?”

“So did you land a plane on the Hudson? Did you deal with the ATC system hiding behind a keyboard ??”

Your public profile on ATW indicates that you like rescuing dogs. Until you have accumulated the hours and experience of Captain Sullenberger or any pilot who has operated in this system and is acutely aware of the problems, I urge you to stick to things you are proficient at.”

“You have no achievements or solid career to legitimate any of your sayings. Quite sad really.”


My response:

First, I have never claimed and never would claim to be a pilot. My credentials to comment on issues relating to the global air transportation industry are as a specialist editor with a degree in journalism and, more specifically, 30 years’ knowledge of this industry. But that is not what is relevant here.

Sullenberger is entitled to his opinions as we all are. But he holds a privileged position, well-deserved, as an acknowledged hero after the Hudson incident, when his actions saved lives. That privileged position means his words and commentary hold higher value; he therefore has a responsibility to ensure that any opinion he shares publicly (especially when it is paid for) is based on truthful facts.

Sullenberger misrepresents some important facts in the videos he has done on behalf of AAAA. He says that ATC reform would mean that the US “big airlines” would run a reformed ATC organization. This is not true. First, some of the longest-standing and fiercest advocates of ATC reform are Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways. They are not the “big airlines”. Second, a reformed ATC organization would not be “handed over” to the “big airlines”, as Sullenberger says. It would be overseen by an independent, not-for-profit organization. Its board would include airline, pilot, union and government representatives to ensure all stakeholder considerations are fairly and properly taken into account in ATC fees, management and structure.

Most important, Sullenberger strongly implies that the motivation for ATC reform is US major airlines wanting to cut costs while sacrificing ATC safety. Nothing could be further from the truth. No airline – which must above all protect its passengers, crews and reputation – wants a less safe ATC system. The airlines want a more efficient, higher capacity, safer system that will ensure their growth against increasing US and foreign competition, and which will protect the jobs of pilots and crews.

This is why I feel it is important, as ATW editor, to opinionate on this issue.

We can agree to disagree on aviation issues. There is no justification, especially for professionals responsible for passenger safety, to sink to snide and nasty remarks.

Karen Walker

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