Piloting Through a Crisis – by Rick Godwin – Senior Pastor Summit Christian Center

A special ‘Thank You’ to my guest blogger, friend, and pastor Rick Godwin, the senior pastor of Summit Chsitian Center, for allowing me to share this important message. For more information about Pastor Rick and Summit Christian Center, visit the links provided at the bottom of this article – Matthew Mattera


On January 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549, piloted by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger made an unpowered emergency landing on the freezing cold Hudson River in NYC. After suffering multiple bird strikes that hit both engines causing them to fail, 155 passengers (PIC) and crew evacuated the Airbus A320 onto the wings and waited while other watercraft came to their rescue.

This incident became known as “The Miracle On The Hudson.” The crew was hailed as heroes for what they did. Over the next few months, news agencies did a lot of interviews with the Captain. People were awed by how he handled the crisis.

All of us as Leaders will face unexpected misfortune and unexpected circumstances. So, let me give you six strategies in a crisis.

  1. TAKE CONTROL – DON’T PANIC.

The Co-Pilot was actually at the controls of the plane when the collision occurred. But immediately, Capt. Sully said, “This is my aircraft now” and he took control as Pilot in Command.

As a leader in times of crisis, you must immediately reorganize your priorities and put your total focus on analyzing and re-establishing the situation at hand. Panic leads to irrational, sometimes uncontrolled behavior. It affects our ability to think clearly and rationally. In most crisis situations, more than anything else, what is done at the very beginning will determine the eventual outcome.

Stay focused. Don’t get distracted. Fly the plane first. If you need a job, that should be your unyielding focus. Or, struggling to keep your home.

The more prepared we’re for any crisis, the better we can handle tough times when they come.

  1. CONTINUALLY ASSESS THE SITUATION.

As soon as the bird strike occurred and the engines failed, the Captain put the nose of the plane down to maintain a safe airspeed and then began to assess the situation. He knew LaGuardia was not an option. He was asked by air-traffic controllers if Teterboro was an option, but it was again too far away. He quickly realized he would have to ditch on the Hudson River.

When in a crisis – knowing your options is critical to your outcome. When other avenues close, seek another. Be flexible. Examine then discard the plans. Choose the route that puts you in the best possible situation.

Get rid of non-essentials. Drop unnecessary expenses. Concentrate only on what’s important. In first-aid, stop the bleeding.

  1. SEEK ADVICE.

But YOU still have to decide. The air-traffic controller on the ground said, “Turn around, you are cleared to return and land at LaGuardia.” But Capt. Sully knew that wasn’t going to happen. He listened to their suggestions but said, “There’s no way we’re going to make it back. The Hudson is our only choice!”

In the same manner, as an effective leader, we have to seek wise counsel, listen to what others say while remembering that WE have to make the decision. They can’t make it! Sully had a co-pilot to assist and the air traffic controllers. Talk to people about a job lead, how to navigate a foreclosure, or obtain a small loan. Talk to others who have been thru the same thing.

You’re the one that best knows the situation at hand. You’re the one who knows what to do next in the crisis.

  1. COMMUNICATE WITH THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU.

In the 208 seconds between the bird strike and the landing on the Hudson River, Capt. Sully had to communicate with his Co-pilot, air-traffic control, his flight crew, and the passengers on the plane.

Communication was critical in getting help, organizing the situation, analyzing the options, and preparing for the outcome. As a leader, communication is just as important in a time of crisis as it is in a time of growth and success – may be MORE?

You’ve got to communicate with your team so others can help share the load.

  1. ESTIMATE YOUR HOLDING POWER.

Capt. Sully was also a Glider pilot. He understood glide ratios – altitude versus distance. He was at an altitude of 3,000 ft., so he could glide for about 3 miles in that aircraft. So, when Traffic Controllers wanted him to turn around and head back to La Guardia, he knew that wasn’t possible.

If you get to a place you suddenly lose your physical, emotional, or financial thrust – you’ve got to quickly be able to determine your gliding range. How much time do I have? How far can you make it? How long can you stay airborne in your business, in your ministry?

  1. EXPECT GOD TO INTERVENE.

The plane didn’t break upon impact with the River. And it didn’t sink! Look at all those people standing on the wings! Hence the name, “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Passengers-crew-wings-plane-Airways-emergency-landing-January-15-2009.jpg
US Airways flight 1549Passengers and crew standing on the wings of a U.S. Airways plane after it made an emergency landing in the Hudson River, New York City, January 15, 2009.Steven Day—AP/REX/Shutterstock.com

In spite of how negative situations appear, God’s power can quickly change whatever circumstances you’re dealing with. You must have confidence in God who began a good work in you — that He is able to give you the power to make it through.

Capt. Sully told a News reporter during an interview, “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years I’ve been making small regular deposits in the Bank of Experience, Education, and Training. So, on January 11th, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal!”

So, what are you doing today, what are you learning today, what are you investing in your people? All those are personal deposits in your life account.

Keep your account full so that when misfortune comes – when the bird strikes occur – when a crisis hits – you’re able to navigate it calmly and courageously, knowing you will come out victoriously.


About my guest

Together, Rick and Cindy Godwin have pastored Summit Christian Center for over 30 years. Rick is an internationally-known teacher, speaker and motivator who is passionate about encouraging people to pursue their dreams and live life at the highest possible level. He believes that influence comes through service and is dedicated to helping people see how they can positively impact the community in which they live. Rick’s message is one that is real, raw, and relevant, challenging mindsets of mediocrity and launching people to realize their full potential. From Australia to South Africa to the floor of the Alamodome, Rick’s messages have resonated with people from all walks of life. He has been invited to speak at conferences across the globe, local government official’s inaugurations, city meetings, dedication and openings of new businesses, leadership conferences and to athletes of professional sports teams. Through his work around the world, he has developed an ability to provide a message that cuts across multiple cultures and generations.


No one is meant to do life alone. There is security in staying connected to positive people of faith who are committed to encouraging, strengthening, and serving one another. If you’re looking for a dynamic and relevant church to connect with, go to https://summitsa.com – It’s more than a church – it’s a family.

Summit Christian Center is located at

2575 Marshall Rd, San Antonio, TX 78259

Service Times at Summit Christian Center

Main Campus Services:
Saturday at 5:00 PM & Sunday at 10:30 AM

Livestreaming:
Saturday at 5 PM
Sunday at 8:30 AM, 10:30 AM & 12:30 PM
Monday at 7 PM

Spanish Translation Available at the 10:30AM Service

Phone 210-402-0565

Email: info@summitsa.com

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