We have had the pleasure of having two great plane crash films made in the last five years. The 2012 film Flight was about a functioning alcoholic pilot, Whip Whitaker played by Denzel Washington, who is forced into a crash landing after he loses control of the plane. Sully, played by Tom Hanks, is the true story of Chelsey Sullenberger who is forced to land a plane in the Hudson River after both engines swallowed several geese. Both pilots crash landed the planes with minimal loss and were lauded as heroes. But as with anything else, crash landing a plane is a competition, and one did it better than the other. Let’s take a look at who did it better in several different categories to determine once and for all who is the best movie pilot.
It’s hard to fully judge Sully on this since he had to do his crash landing so soon after takeoff. Overall though, I wasn’t too impressed by Sully. There were no maneuvers, no stunts, nothing. Why not invert the plane? It’s almost like he wanted to crash in the Hudson to make himself look like a hero. Whitaker on the other hand successfully gained control of a nosediving plane that lost both engines, flipped that bitch upside down to reduce speed, and did it all while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine. This one’s a no-brainer.
Flight Under Pressure
Both pilots were cool as a cucumber with hundreds of lives in their hands, and with time against them. Whitaker knew exactly what to do, and took command as his rookie copilot freaked the fuck out and lost all hope. Sully showed similar poise and called out “mayday” like he was welcoming passengers on the flight. Although they were both calm under disastrous circumstances, Whitaker loses points here since he was blitzed and therefore more relaxed already compared to the allegedly sober Sully.
Both pilots saved hundreds of lives. Whitaker’s crash yielded six fatalities, while everyone survived Sully’s. However, Whitaker was forced to crash land in a field with a much more intense impact than Sully landing in a river. You also can’t help but think that Whitaker’s fatality number would’ve been only five had a certain passenger been a responsible parent and strap in/hold on to their child. If you don’t know, a child fell out of their seat while the plane was inverted, forcing flight attendant and Whitaker’s lover Katrina to remove her seat belt in order to secure the child, thereby sacrificing her own life. That one’s on the shitty parents. But six fatalities on a hard-impact crash is pretty damn good all things considered.
So this really doesn’t have anything to do with piloting skills, but Sully didn’t seem like a very likeable guy. He just seemed a little too smug in everything that he did, and played the part of a hero very disappointingly. Whitaker seemed to relish in the fact that he was a hero, at least until he heard about his toxicology report. But he still made life better for those around him, and genuinely gave a shit about others.
Post-Crash Coping Skills
This one’s easy: Sully had some serious issues after the crash and constantly feared about what the National Transportation Safety Board would find in its investigation, while Whitaker acted like he’d been there before. It’s fair to think that Sully may have been hiding something based on his reaction. This wasn’t no thang to Whitaker though, who despite being informed that he could be facing criminal charges, went about his life like a boss. Okay, maybe not so much as we see his struggles as an alcoholic, but still, he goes out and gets a heroine-addict girlfriend and seems to be living life to the fullest at that point.
Difficulty of Situation
Both Whitaker and Sully were fully investigated to see if there was anyway the planes could’ve made a safe landing. While Sully may have been hiding something, his situation was pretty cut and dry, although flight simulators showed that he maybe, could have returned to LaGuardia. Obviously there were some questions surrounding Whitaker after the whole drinking on the job and drug use thing, but every single flight simulator crashed in Whitaker’s scenario. Again, he was drunk while he did it, which is bad in terms of being a pilot, but it makes his feat even more impressive. Couple this with the fact that Sully had a decent copilot while Whitaker’s had a full blown panic attack and proved to be no help to him.
Integrity Under Oath
Sully didn’t think he did anything wrong, so lying under oath wasn’t really necessary. With Whitaker, his main priority was staying out of jail, and he was coached up by his scumbag defense attorney who got Whitaker’s toxicology reports thrown out because of a “technicality.” Despite all of this, in the end, Whitaker admits that he was drunk, so as not to throw the deceased Katrina under the bus. Yes, he stamped his own ticket to federal prison, but dammit, it took a man to do that.
There you have it—Whitaker wins in a 6 to 1 landslide.