Beware of minor spoilers if you know nothing about the Hudson Miracle story.

How accurate is the movie Sully? The hearing was (according to the movie) public, and I'm guessing most of the facts are now public as well.

Is the movie true to its story, or is there some creative liberty from the directors and writers? Are the movie passengers depicting actual passengers as well? Does the hearing follow the original script and the defense made by the pilots?

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sully_(film)#Controversy Also, "Are the movie passengers depicting actual passengers as well?" seems impossible to answer. WRT "is there some creative liberty from the directors and writers?": of course there is; it's a movie not a documentary.
    – BCdotWEB
    Sep 16, 2016 at 9:43
  • 3
    @close-voters You might want to elaborate in which way this question is "primarily opinion-based".
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Sep 16, 2016 at 10:54

1 Answer 1


The movie is mostly accurate except the negative villain-like portrayal of NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board).

The movie is based on Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters. It is a memoir written by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow describing the events of US Airways Flight 1549. Of those two, Chesley Sullenberger (Sully) was the Captain of the flight 1549.

Actual incident

The fact that the movie is based on an actual memoir by Sully himself establishes accuracy of the main premise/plot of the movie and the actual incident as the happened. Additionally as Captain Sully said in his statement:

“The story being told came from my experiences, and reflects the many challenges that I faced and successfully overcame both during and after the flight. I was involved in the development and am thrilled it’s being brought to the screen.”

Talking about the actual landing and the whole incident, the movie "pretty accurately" captures what happened that day, as told by the survivors themselves.

If you are interested to know more about the actual incident - a survivor did an AMA session on Reddit answering various questions and describing the entire experience.

The investigation

But just portraying this incident in one linear fashion would have almost made it seem like a documentary. Suspense and the I-was-on-the-edge-of-my-seat factor was missing in the film. So director Clint Eastwood wanted to bring in a villain in the movie.

As a result they made the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) villain and portrayed them as prosecutorial and closed-minded. The federal investigators who conducted the inquiry into the flight contend that “Sully” tarnishes their reputation. The investigators, including Robert Benzon, the now-retired leader of the inquiry along with the other investigators said

the scriptwriters heightened the drama by adding a level of testiness to the N.T.S.B. investigation which is unfair and inaccurate.

But interestingly enough, Allyn Stewart, a producer of movie has responded to this saying:

The story is told through the experiences of Jeff and Sully, and so they felt under extreme scrutiny and they were

If you are interested more in the investigation and the final verdict you can read the full transcripts of its public hearing - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3,

An example of inaccuracy

Remember how in the movie Captain Sully asks to add those 35 seconds as a "human factor" for next simulation? In reality, investigators were the ones who had asked to do that

In reality, investigators first asked simulator pilots to attempt airport landings immediately after engine loss to establish the bounds of practicality. Notably, even with the benefit of perfect hindsight, barely half of these optimal test runs made it back. And then the investigators – not Sullenberger – asked a pilot to wait 35 seconds before attempting an airport return. That flight didn’t make it. Consequently, the NTSB was unequivocal in its declaration that the Hudson was the right call.

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