Usually, New York reserves its miracles for sports teams. There was the “Miracle Jets” and the “Miracle Mets.” And there was the classic movie “Miracle on 34th Street.” New York even had a “Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 Olympic Games at Lake Placid. And although the world celebrated after Thursday’s touchdown, what New York Governor David Patterson later dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson” was no game.
Flight 1549 had just lifted off from the runway at New York’s La Guardia Airport on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina, when, 30 to 45 seconds later, the pilot reported a “bird strike.” Running into birds, which is a common occurrence, became the least of Pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger’s problems as the bird strike almost immediately caused a jet turbine to shut down. He then lost power in all his engines.
“Sully” Sullenberger’s jet, an Airbus 320, was dead in the air.
With no power and a crowded city of millions below him, Sullenberger, who had had glider training, guided the plane over the George Washington Bridge, deciding quickly to attempt an emergency landing in the Hudson River. The passengers were told to brace for impact and, within seconds, the plane hit the water, landing in the cold waters of the Hudson River.
A Hudson River ferry arrived at the downed plane’s craash location within minutes and the passengers, arrayed along the wings of the sinking plane, began boarding. Minutes later, a string of Coast guard and other vessels removed all remaining passengers and crew from the plane.
And everyone, from passengers to crew to newscasters to uninvolved guests on talk shows marveled at the “Miracle on the Hudson.” Pilot Sullenberger was exalted as a “hero.”
Lou Dobbs of CNN called it one of the most orderly and well-managed emergency scenes he had ever witnessed. Dr. Phil McGraw, appearing on “Larry King Live” later in the evening, added that the co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, and the flight attendants, should be commended as well. McGraw, a licensed pilot, said “hero” was not a descriptive enough word for what Sullenberger had accomplished in landing the plane safely in the Hudson River.
One passenger, Bill Elkin, appeared on the CBS “Early Show” to tell the story of the Hudson crash. He said that, at the end, he was in a raft with the pilot. Throwing his arms around the 57-year-old Sullenberger, Elkin exclaimed, “You’re my hero!”
Besides several cases of mild hypothermia and a few minor injuries, all 150 passengers and 5 crewmen aboard Flight 1549 walked away from the crash.
And nothing less than a “miracle” the Hudson landing just might have been. As certain as so many things had gone wrong in the beginning, it is equally certain that many things had to have gone right for everyone to have survived — if not the initial crash, then a possible drowning afterwards.
The successful landing and rescue of everyone on Flight 1549 in the Hudson River crash seems even more miraculous when compared with the similar circumstances of an Air Florida flight from Washington, D.C., to Tampa, Florida, that suddenly crashed into the Potomac river shortly after it lifted off from National Airport 27 years ago, nearly to the day. Only five people survived the Air Florida plane crash on January 13, 1982. Four of the 78 people who died in the crash were killed in their cars when the plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge.
In a press conference after the rescue, New York Governor David Patterson stated, “We had a miracle on 34th Street. I believe now we have had a miracle on the Hudson.”
The submerged body of US Airways Flight 1549 was pulled from the cold Hudson waters Friday and away from where it was moored Thursday after the “splash” landing. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the emergency Hudson landing.
The Associated Press reported that, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson Laura Brown, there were eyewitness accounts of the plane flying into a flock of birds shortly after takeoff.
The Federal Aviation Administration reports that there have been approximated 65,000 bird strikes in the last 15 years. However, they rarely result in the downing of an airplane.
“Lou Dobbs Tonight,” CNN Television
“Larry King Live,” CNN Television
“Early Show,” CBS Television