Near the end of the movie when Sully is before the NTSB, he tells them they forgot to use the human factor when they used simulations to show he could have gotten to an airport. They relented and added 35 seconds to the simulation before the simulated pilots reacted to the problem. The actual time, from the bird strike, was 58 seconds...a 23-second difference.
To create the post-crash scenes in the river, the producers first shot footage of the rescue boats, surrounding a large empty space, in the Hudson River. They combined those shots with footage of retired A320 aircraft in Universal Studio's artificial lake ("Falls Lake") in southern California. (Parts of another Tom Hanks historical flight disaster movie, Apollo 13 (1995) were also filmed in Falls Lake.)
During the in-flight emergency, Sully asks his co-pilot Jeff Skiles to "get the QRH." The Quick Reference Handbook (QRH) contains all the procedures applicable for abnormal and emergency conditions in an easy-to-use format. In addition, performance data corrections are also provided for specific conditions. The aviation acronym "QRH" is never explained or defined anywhere in the movie.
The bulky ring with the blue stone that Sully fiddles with comes from the U.S. Air Force Academy. Chesley Sullenberger was a member of the Class of 1973. Tom Hanks wore another military ring in Apollo 13 (1995), where he played astronaut Jim Lovell, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate.
When Sully is jogging through Times Square, signs referencing other Clint Eastwood projects, Gran Torino (2008) and Jersey Boys (2014), are visible. The sign for "Gran Torino" also features a picture of Eastwood, making it a cameo.
This film is based on the autobiography "Highest Duty," co-written by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow, about the safe landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 known as "Miracle on the Hudson" that occurred on Thursday, January 15, 2009. The airplane lost engine power, after hitting a flock of Canada Geese during climb-out at approximately 2800ft AGL and 200 nautical miles per hour. Each of the two engines ingested at least two Canada Geese (average weight between 7-10lbs.) and neither engine was able to produce sufficient thrust to sustain flight afterwards. Captain Sullenberger was able to ditch the aircraft in the Hudson River, resulting in the survival of all on board.
This is the second time Tom Hanks has portrayed a real-life person where the events took place in the year 2009. He previously portrayed Captain Phillips (2013), who was taken hostage by Somali pirates in April 2009. The events in "Sully" took place in January 2009.
The song "A Real Hero" by French electronica artist College, in collaboration with Electric Youth, released in 2010, is about Captain Chesley Sullenberger and the U.S. Airways Flight 1549 water landing incident. Electric Youth frontman Austin Garrick was inspired to write the song by a quote from his grandfather, who spoke of Sullenberger and the incident. Garrick's grandfather referred to Sullenberger as "a real human being and a real hero," which became the song's refrain. The song has been featured in films including Drive (2011) and Taken 2 (2012).
The actual Airbus aircraft involved in the incident was recovered from the Hudson and placed on display at the Carolina's Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte was the original destination for this flight. Footage shown during the credits with the actual passengers and crew was shot at the museum.
In Sully's flashback to flying a biplane as a teenager, a Civil Air Patrol sign (red prop on a blue background) is clearly visible on an airport building. The CAP was responsible for courier duty and Coastal Patrol missions, among other tasks, during World War II. Today, they are responsible for all inland Search and Rescue operations in the United States, and they operate one of the largest fleets of aircraft in the world.
A chain of gossip in 2015, which turned out to be wholly incorrect, claimed that when director Clint Eastwood gave Doris Day a copy of the script, she loved it and was tempted to return to the big screen. In the drama/thriller Julie (1956), Day played a flight attendant who has to land the plane by herself when disaster strikes.