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Evidence-based decision making: How "Sully" Sullenberger saved 155 passengers with 40 years of practice

Published on March 31, 2019 Originally recorded 2012   9 min
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Let me give you an example of what evidence-based management or maybe, more generally, an evidence-based practice might look like in life. Now, you might remember the landing in 2009 of a US airplane that had a bird strike in its engines, which shut down its engines, and the plane ultimately landed on the Hudson River with 155 passengers and crew members, all of whom survived the crash landing on the water. Well, behind this almost miraculous safe landing of an airplane on the Hudson River, is the tale of the hero pilot who himself had been developing his judgment, his scientific knowledge, his ability to assess situations quickly, to use good decision practices and make a mindful decision that would affect a lot of stakeholders. So, let me tell you the story of an evidence-based pilot.
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The first aspect of being an evidence-based practitioner is the use of scientific findings and research in your day-to-day professional practice. Well, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, a pilot of USAir 1549, has been a visiting scholar at the University of California Berkeley, working on their Collaborative for Catastrophic Risk Management since 2007. His research, both at Berkeley and in other places, is on the decision-making to maintain safe and reliable operations of airlines or other transportation systems despite technological complexity, risk and crisis conditions. Working with NASA, he has co-authored a paper on the error-inducing contexts that exist in aviation. Sully Sullenberger is someone who has used the best available scientific knowledge on accidents and decision-making to think through what it takes to make good decisions.
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Evidence-based decision making: How "Sully" Sullenberger saved 155 passengers with 40 years of practice

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