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Skiles Gets the Hollywood Treatment

  • Skiles Gets the Hollywood Treatment
    Former Young Eagles co-chairman Jeff Skiles at Oshkosh on July 28, flying 10-year-old Braeden Ebert of Reedsburg, Wisconsin as part of the celebration of 2 million Young Eagles flown.

September 15, 2016 - The movie Sully opened to big audiences throughout the nation last week, becoming the weekend’s biggest box-office draw. For Jeff Skiles, former EAA Young Eagles co-chairman and vice president of chapters and youth education with the organization, it was a different experience seeing himself portrayed on the screen by actor Aaron Eckhart.

“I’ve told the story so many times, it’s like it happened to somebody else,” Skiles said this week, as he was preparing to fly to Rome as part of his current job piloting Airbus A330s on American Airlines international routes.

Skiles, EAA 336120, has told the amazing tale of US Airways Flight 1549 “Miracle on the Hudson” on numerous occasions, including in presentations at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and the EAA AirVenture Museum. Being part of a major movie premiere night, though, was a whole different experience.

“It was fun because I got to bring my wife and family with me,” Skiles said of the September 6 premiere in New York City, which was a little surreal and frenzied at the same time. “No one really explained how this would all work,” he said. “We came down the carpet with the [Flight 1549] flight attendants and someone told us to stop. Then suddenly people started taking our pictures. Then we were shooed away, because people were saying, ‘The talent is coming down the carpet!’”

Skiles did not spend a lot of time with the production of the Clint Eastwood-directed feature because of his flying schedule with American Airlines, returning to his commercial flying career after spending two years at EAA. Overall, however, Skiles approved of the movie’s portrayal of the famed incident and its aftermath.

“Obviously there is some license in making a movie,” he said. “I was really pleased with my part, though. While they focused on Sully’s character, they captured the fact that afterward, our reputations and careers were on line, which was true.”

Skiles mentioned that in the original script, his character didn’t have a lot of lines, but the dialogue was expanded in the finished product. He joked that, “there was this guy standing there in all the scenes, so they figured they better give him something to say.” As for Eckhart’s performance, Skiles added, “I’m always pleased when I’m portrayed by someone with a full head of hair.”

While Skiles is happy to be back to his real job of flying airliners, he did add that being a part of a major movie premiere was pretty heady stuff.

“I think my wife and kids were kind of impressed with me by the end of the movie,” he said. “Then as the lights came up, Tom Hanks came over three rows of seats to say hello. At that point, my 10 minutes were up. I was back to being plain old Dad.”

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