HR Strange But True!
January 23, 2009

Would your company create a team where the youngest member was 49 years old and the average age was 54.6? Well, US Airways would say a resounding “yes”--this is the crew who successfully landed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River.

These crewmembers, lauded by US Airways's CEO for their “quick and heroic actions,” praised by politicians, and cheered by Americans are: Officer Jeffrey Skiles, age 49; Flight Attendant Donna Dent, age 51; Flight Attendant Sheila Dail, age 57; and Flight Attendant Doreen Welsh and Captain Chesley “Sulley” Sullenberger, both age 58.

From interviews with the surviving passengers, this Boomer crew exhibited the so-called Right Stuff and response skills to accomplish a successful water ditching of a commercial plane. One official quoted by CNN, who had heard the tape of Sulley's conversations with the control tower, said “There was no panic, no hysteria. It was professional; it was calm; it was methodical. It was everything you hoped it could be.” And passengers report their quick exit from the plane was due to the excellent direction and extreme calm emanating from the experienced flight attendants.

Business psychologist and career management expert Wendy Alfus Rothman of Wenroth Consulting thinks the “Miracle on the Hudson ” should “shake up the traditional notion of retirement and the value of building a substantive work history. … Things rarely go as planned,” says Rothman, “and the ability to adapt, stay focused, and be ‘deliberately calm' are often aided by broad and deep experience.”

Roth coined the phrase “deliberate calm” as a user-friendly alternative to the psychological term “metacognition,” where “experience, preparation, and impulse control all add to mental composure and the ability to balance emotions against a more rational and deliberate thought process.”

Jonathan Turley, attorney for older pilots fighting to retain their jobs and benefits notes that ironically, many of the politicians who are praising the experienced flight crew “ have worked to have pilots over 60 years old fired and stripped of their benefits and seniority .”

“[Sulley] would have been fired under the Age 60 Rule in 3 years. Now, he is able to continue to fly after the pilots forced a change in Congress,” Turley states.

So, will this incident shed new light on the continued value of older employees in this downturned economy? TBD!

Note: SBT editors thought our readers might like to see Sulley's experience-packed résumé from the website of the company he founded, Safety Reliability Methods, at

Sources: CNN and other Media Outlets

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