In Sully (2016) there's a short moment when pilot flying (captain) confirms something exactly opposite to the checklist item just read by pilot not flying (first officer):

FO: Emergency electrical power, emergency generator not online.

CP: Online.

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Am I missing something obvious or this is a script error? Are there any situations when any checlist item must be negated?

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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking about it, then I realized, I've never watched the movie. Just little clips. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ Whilst this may not be an error, there is script difference just before this after the mayday call when ATC asks Capt Sullenberger which engines he lost. In reality the question was asked by LaGuardia tower to the New York Departure controller when then mayday was passed on. The New York controller got the both engines out first time. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnK It seems like it's going to be a dry retelling of events of which we already know the outcome, but it's actually quite engaging and well-made. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ It's Hollywood, not a documentary. (But it is a good film). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 15:39

1 Answer 1


The CVR voice transcript shows that the movie is accurate.

Cactus 1549 CVR voice transcript

15:28:14 HOT-2 “emergency electrical power... emergency generator not online.”

15:28:18 CAM [sound similar to electrical noise from engine igniters ends]

15:28:19 HOT-1 “(it's/is) online.”

The Engine Dual Failure Checklist actually reads:

EMER ELEC PWR (if EMER GEN not on-line)……………... MAN ON

The FO misread the checklist and said “emergency generator not online” when he should have said “if emergency generator not online”. The emergency generator was actually online, and the Captain corrected him by saying “(it's/is) online”.

Page 55 of the NTSB Report confirms this:

“Regarding step e, the pilots stated that they determined that electrical power was established and, therefore, that the RAT did not need to be manually deployed. Further, immediately after the loss of engine thrust, the captain started the APU.”

The only error in the movie is they missed the “(it's/is)” part.

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    $\begingroup$ I am not a pilot. Is it required/preferred that a checklist is read out verbatim? I would imagine so, but at the same time I would imagine pilots are extremely familiar with this checklist and in this case a bit rushed. The FO was paraphrasing the text as a prompt to both for the action to be taken? And the captain is affirming that it is online. $\endgroup$
    – RomaH
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ Checklists are designed to be read verbatim, but in practice they are often misread or paraphrased. Even an experienced pilot can easily make an error, especially in an emergency situation. In this case the EMER GEN was designed to automatically come on as the RAT was deployed. The “MAN ON” response would only be made if there was a failure in the auto system. It is possible that FO Skiles was paraphrasing and would have continued the with checklist, and correctly pointed out that the EMER GEN was online, and didn’t need to be manually turned on. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ Capt Sullenberger was a very experienced pilot, with a training background, and I suspect he spotted the error without even having to look up, and simply stepped in with the correct response instinctively to both save time, and correct any possible error by the FO reading the checklist. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ I remember reading or listening to an interview SOMEWHERE where Sully said the first thing he did, upon realizing what happened, was start the APU. That was why it was online when the checklist item was read. $\endgroup$
    – RetiredATC
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ @RetiredATC The RAT powers the Emergency Generator via the Blue Hydraulic system. The APU powers a separate APU generator. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 18:59

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