Great Training Averts a Disaster

Employee Engagement Strategies
Employee Engagement
Extensive employee training is a necessity for positive business outcomes. For US Airways flight 1549 it meant the pilot's ability to save everyone on board.

Employee training is a necessity for organizations to make sure that their staff members do their job well, ensure good customer service, and help towards business success. But there are also times when the right training can make a difference between life and death.Take doctors for example. Knowing how to immediately diagnose a patient and give him the right treatment is crucial to make sure that the patient recovers or even survives. Physicians and other health professionals are given extensive training to ensure that they're able to take potentially life-saving decisions quickly and effectively.

Pilots too shoulder an enormous responsibility when they're in air to ensure the safety of both passengers and crew members on board, not to mention the pilots themselves. Unfortunately, there are times when things go wrong and it's up to pilots to take the right decisions to avert a tragedy.

This was the case of US Airways flight 1549 in January 2009, which, following the extraordinary landing on New York's Hudson River after both engines failed due to a bird strike, has been dubbed "The Miracle on the Hudson." As Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, who was piloting the flight, said, it was the extensive training that pilots go through that allowed him and first officer Jeffrey B. Skiles to land the plane and save all 155 people on board.

Speaking during last week's Responsys Interact 2013, Capt. Sullenberger described in detail the moments until the lifesaving landing after the plane struck a flock of Canada geese, filling the windscreen with blood "as if we were in a Hitchcock movie" and leading to "sudden and completely symmetrical" loss of thrust in both engines. "My first three thoughts were that this couldn't be happening, this doesn't happen to me, and a realization that unlike any other flight in 42 years, this wouldn't end up on a runway with the airline undamaged," he said.

It was then that Capt. Sullenberger's extensive training kicked in, allowing him to find a solution to an unprecedented problem. Pilots aren't trained to land on water and simulating such a landing was not possible. But, as Capt. Sullenberger noted, pilots are trained for several eventualities. "I was able to synthesize a lifetime of training and experience and use it to solve a problem I'd never seen," he explained.

We all know the result and the image of passengers standing on the plane's wings on that frigid January afternoon are still ingrained in the minds of many of us.

Most employees will never be faced with the enormous responsibility that Capt. Sullenberger was. But this incident clearly highlights the importance of constant training. Business leaders need to look at employee training as a necessity. While their employees might not be entrusted with a life or death decision, their actions can make a difference between business success or failure.