33. Dave Sanderson – Miracle on the Hudson

Dave Sanderson

When US Airways Flight 1549, or “The Miracle on the Hudson,” ditched into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, Dave Sanderson knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be.

Dave Sanderson
Dave Sanderson

The last passenger off the back of the plane on that fateful day, he was largely responsible for the well-being and safety of others, risking his own life in frigid water to help other passengers off the plane.

Despite the hazards to himself, Sanderson thought only of helping others and emerged from the wreckage with a mission: to encourage others to do the right thing.

That experience profoundly changed his life and today he travels the globe sharing his inspirational and motivational leadership messages to help people make a difference in how they do business and live their lives. #MomentsMatter You can listen to the audio interview on the Podcast: Here 


Dave is an inspirational survivor, speaker, and author. His thoughts on leadership have made him an internationally sought-out speaker.

Put on That Plane

The day of the plane crash Dave called the travel agent and moved his 5:00 flight with a first-class seat to flight 1549 so he could get home to see his wife and his four kids earlier. Everybody including Dave was put on that plane for a reason.

There was nothing unusual that day and Dave was one of the first people to get on the plane because of his status with the airway, he was chairman and flew very often. He got on the plane and paid no attention to anything but his reading but shortly after, they hit the birds.

He tells us that the first miracle was that there was only one loud boom and everyone thought that only one engine was lost. He could see the smoke out his window and had thought that the plane would make it back to La Guardia.

 This is your captain brace for impact…………….

No one survives a plane crash…. This is what Dave thought as the plane went down and he watched out the window to see when his last seconds would be.

The hit was hard, Doreen the flight attendant, and the people in the back took the biggest hit. He gives her a lot of credit because she kept her wits about her even when someone opened the back door and let the water in. With 30+ years of experience her training kicked in and she made a big difference.

The person that opened the plane did what everyone is told to do, find the nearest exit and what is so fascinating, is that if the captain did what he was told to do,  Dave wouldn’t be telling this story today.

I watched the movie Sully and it had me at the edge of my seat. They did an amazing job of making one feel as if they were there and I was so charged and excited to share Dave’s story with you.

Sully Movie Poster

“If you do the right thing God will take care of you”.

Dave heard his mom say, “If you do the right thing God will take care of you”. His mom had passed away in 1997 but he heard her say this and that’s why he waited in the back of the plane to make sure everyone else got out. Once he knew everyone was off the plane he got off himself.

When I asked him if he waited for everyone to get out, he responded with humbleness and said not for everyone, just the people in the back. The back was dark and filling up with freezing cold water. As he stepped over floating luggage he couldn’t tell what it was.

He waited, in waist-deep 36-degree water, because there was no room for him to get onto the wing. They waited for about 6 minutes for help.


The first responders were the real hero’s Dave tells us. The ferries were cued up for the days’ work, and New York WaterWays, Arthur E. Imperatore, made the decision to give up their revenue stream that day to help rescue everyone off the plane. This is why help came so quickly and turned a tragedy into a miracle. He tells us first responders, aqua guys, firemen, the crew, the passengers, and the pilot’s decision make it a real miracle.

The Baby

My daughter and I were so touched by the baby in the movie. In the movie, they showed the lady pass her baby to a male passenger to brace the baby for impact and it was so scary. I asked Dave if the baby was real and he shared that everyone came together to make sure the baby was safe. He tells us the Mom had a three-year-old as well as a baby and she was standing frozen in place in the middle of the plane wing.

Dave worked for Tony Robbins for about 10 years as head of security, he learned a lot of things about how to get attention so he yelled, “Throw the baby”. He knew she wouldn’t but it would be radical enough to get her attention and it did! Someone asked her to pass the baby to the lifeboat and Mom and the children made it in safe. She sent Dave a package with a picture of her baby when she was 3 years old and a thank you.  Dave told us that everyone pulled together to make sure that even if no one survived that that baby was going to survive.

Post-Traumatic Growth Syndrome (PTG)

Why do some people get PTSD and others experience Post-Traumatic Growth? Dave was asked this question and he has been really looking into this. He will be giving a TED talk called Jolt and sharing how you can use your own personal experience to go up. The movie shows quite vividly what PTSD looks like as the Capitan of the plane would see troubling images over and over again.

Dave has had the opportunity to speak to people after traumatic events such as; Hurricane Sandy, Oklahoma tornadoes, and folks in the military that go through tragedy all the time. He shares about mindset; how to manage your mind, how to ask yourself the proper questions, and how to go up instead of down after these events.


Jesus had some rough days, every day wasn’t pixie dust and sunshine, he had some rough days! He went to pray to God and Dave tells us that faith is important to him. Asking for your greater beings’ help is important and God was all over the plane crash.

There was a lady at the back of the plane saying the Lord’s prayer. If they didn’t all survive it reminded them they were going to a greater place than this.

What Changed?

Dave changed how he prioritized his time. His father was always gone providing for the family and Dave realized he was doing the same. After the plane crash, he realized what his kids really wanted was his time. He now schedules his time around family events.

He left his company and started his own.   Now his time revolves around family events instead of family events fitting in around his company.

In closing, not everyone experiences a plane crash, yet nearly everyone experiences a traumatic event in their life that Dave calls, your own personal plane crash. His time is in high demand and I feel blessed he took the time to share his story on the podcast for all of us. I believe that is because he believes we can all turn our own personal plane crash into a second chance. You can find out more about how by following him on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook or by reading his book, Moments Matter. http://globalnews.ca/video/2525507/book-moments-matter buy it here and get a signed copy from Dave himself.