In the late afternoon of January 15, 2009, a US Airways jet made a miraculous landing on the icy cold waters of the Hudson River with 150 passengers on board along with five crew members. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed all people on board survived the crash and got out safely. One passenger said, “You’ve got to give it to the pilot.” Chesley Sullenberger III, the pilot, avoided a major disaster and is a hero to all on board the flight. In fact, he was the last off and walked the plane twice to make sure everyone had left the airline.
The US Airways flight took off at 3:26 p.m. and was headed for Charlotte, North Carolina. The airplane was only a few miles from LaGuardia airport when the incident occurred. Immediately, the pilot radioed the trouble as a double-bird strike. Pilot Sullenberger saw Teterborough Airport and knew he had to land immediately. However, he could not make it that far. He flew along the Hudson River and then told the passengers to “brace for impact we’re going down”. One of the passengers said he “felt and heard an engine blow” and saw flames coming from the engine. The plane hit the water amidst the prayers of those on board. The flight was over in six minutes.
Immediately the doors of the plane opened and passengers spilled onto the wings. Ferries sped to the accident and aided the survivors onto their boats. One picture shown on television shows a ferry boat to the left with the plane facing the camera. Passengers were lined up outside the plane, along both wings. The temperature of the Hudson River was 32 degrees at the time of the crash.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City in an interview stated the “…pilot did a masterful job.” The plane landed very close to numerous ferries and water taxis which sped to the rescue of the passengers. Numerous agencies from New York responded immediately to the situation including the Port Authorities, New York City Police and Firefighters. A flight attendant suffered a fractured leg and some passengers were treated for hypothermia. Thank goodness, no deaths were reported.
The preliminary reason for the crash was thought to be caused by a flock of geese that hit both engines of the plane. The eastern corridor of the United States is known to many in the airline industry as the “Atlantic Flyway” due to the multitude of birds in that area.
Airport runways are maintained and kept clean because even the smallest item ingested into an engine can cause tremendous damage. It is estimated that birds cause $500 million in damages to airplanes annually.
The next time you and I get into an airplane, let us pay close attention to the crew members at the beginning of the flight. Know where emergency exits are located, along with life vests. Keep seat belts on at all times and only remove them when the pilot so indicates. These men and women are trained in all emergency situations and have our safety in mind.