WHAT IS A CAPTAIN
It can be anyone from a red neck with a row boat at a fishing camp seeking customers to the guy with four stripes in command of an ocean liner or a large jet carrying hundreds of passengers. But, in all cases it signifies, or implies by the very nature of the uniform with the shoulder boards or four strips on the sleeve of the uniform, that the Captain is in charge and responsible for the well-being and safety of everyone on the craft he commands.
Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger departed LaGuardia airport on January 15, 2009 on a routine flight that turned into a nightmare. He was in command of an Airbus A320-214 twin-engine state of the art aircraft using “fly by wire” technology. Unfortunately, shortly after takeoff his aircraft struck a flock of migratory birds that caused damage to both engines. His powerful jet suddenly became a GLIDER. Without the ability to restore any power he had to make decisions. Because of who, and what he was, he knew the only safe place to land this stricken aircraft would have to be into the Hudson river. He did this successfully and every passenger survived. He used all his skill and knowledge. For this, he is MY HERO.
Let’s move forward almost exactly three years to January 14, 2012 and review the events that another Captain faced and how he reacted. Captain Francesco Schettino of the Cardinal Cruise Line ship Costa Concordia also had an unscheduled event happen on a routine cruise from Civitavecchia to Savona, along the Italian coast. But this event was caused by man, not birds. His ship was off course and struck a reef that tore a one hundred and sixty foot gash on its port side fatally wounding the huge liner. More than four thousand passengers and crew were put at risk but not all survived. His ship sank off the island of Giglio and today still lies on its side to await a final decision and effort to salvage it.
There is no lasting image of Captain Francesco Schettino I can call upon other than pure disgust for a man wearing four stripes with the heart of a coward. I haven’t arrived at this conclusion without first reviewing the transcripts of his conversation with Capt. GregoriaDeFalco of the Italian coast guardduring the actual time frame of the sinking. He wasn’t, and isn’t, a Captain because he failed to even approach the duties and responsibilities the title implies through centuries of our civilized world. Unlike Captain “Sulley” he will probably be remembered as Coward Schettino of the Italian liner, Costa Concordia. Not as the hero “Sulley” will always be remembered by me and my fellow Captains.