"It is probably incorrect to say that an event like this is universally uplifting in the same amount for everyone," he said. "Happier people are the people who tend to take this kind of information and pull some meaning out of it."
More optimistic people are also people who think that, even though uncontrollable events happen, someone with knowledge, experience, skill and a steady hand can seize control of seemingly uncontrollable circumstances, Maddux said.
"People who tend to be more pessimistic will pass it [Sullenberger's actions] off as dumb luck," Maddux said. "They may just miss it and say: 'This shows how dangerous flying is.'"
Maddux sees an analogy between the pilot's heroism and the hope many Americans have for President-elect Barack Obama.
"This pilot with experience and knowledge and steady nerves, seizing control of what was a situation beyond anyone's control to prevent, was able to bring it to a safe, happy end," he said. "That is similar to the way that many people have come to view Barack Obama -- as a person with intelligence and knowledge and steady nerves and a steady hand."
But Maddux added that the emotional boost provided by Sullenberger will probably be fleeting.
"It's a single event. It's the kind of event that even if it provides an uplift, it's probably going to be temporary, because then other things take over the headlines," he said. "These kinds of things become quickly forgotten."
Sullenberger, 57, was perfectly suited for a hero's role. A one-time Air Force fighter pilot, he's one of the nation's leading aviation safety experts -- and a certified glider pilot.
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