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Tue Jan 15, 2019, 08:13 AM

10 Years Ago Today: Miracle on the Hudson


US Airways Flight 1549 was an Airbus A320 which, in the climbout after takeoff from New York City's LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, struck a flock of Canada geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and consequently lost all engine power. Unable to reach any airport, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane to a ditching in the Hudson River off Midtown Manhattan. All 155 people aboard were rescued by nearby boats and there were few serious injuries.

The accident came to be known as the "Miracle on the Hudson", and a National Transportation Safety Board official described it as "the most successful ditching in aviation history". The Board rejected the notion that the pilot could have avoided ditching by returning to LaGuardia or diverting to nearby Teterboro Airport.

The pilots and flight attendants were awarded the Master's Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in recognition of their "heroic and unique aviation achievement".


On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 with call sign 'CACTUS 1549' was scheduled to fly from New York City's LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Charlotte Douglas (CLT), with direct onward service to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport. The aircraft was an Airbus A320-214 powered by two GE Aviation/Snecma-designed CFM56-5B4/P turbofan engines.

The pilot in command was 57-year-old Chesley B. Sullenberger, a former fighter pilot who had been an airline pilot since leaving the United States Air Force in 1980. At the time, he had logged 19,663 total flight hours, including 4,765 in an A320; he was also a glider pilot and expert on aviation safety. First officer Jeffrey B. Skiles, 49, had accrued 15,643 career flight hours, but this was his first Airbus A320 assignment since qualifying to fly it. There were 150 passengers and three flight attendants aboard.


The flight was cleared for takeoff to the northeast from LaGuardia's Runway 4 at 3:24:56 pm Eastern Standard Time (20:24:56 UTC). With Skiles in control, the crew made its first report after becoming airborne at 3:25:51 as being at 700 feet (210 m) and climbing.

The weather at 2:51 p.m. was 10 miles (16 km) visibility with broken clouds at 3,700 feet (1,100 m), wind 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) from 290°; an hour later it was few clouds at 4,200 feet (1,300 m), wind 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph) from 310°. At 3:26:37 Sullenberger remarked to Skiles: "What a view of the Hudson today."

The aircraft headed approximately north after takeoff, then wheeled anti-clockwise to follow the Hudson southwards.

At 3:27:11 the plane struck a flock of Canada geese at an altitude of 2,818 feet (859 m) about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north-northwest of LaGuardia. The pilots' view was filled with the large birds; passengers and crew heard very loud bangs and saw flames from the engines, followed by silence and an odor of fuel.

Realizing that both engines had shut down, Sullenberger took control while Skiles worked the checklist for engine restart. The aircraft slowed but continued to climb for a further 19 seconds, reaching about 3,060 feet (930 m) at an airspeed of about 185 knots (343 km/h; 213 mph), then began a glide descent, accelerating to 210 knots (390 km/h; 240 mph) at 3:28:10 as it descended through 1,650 feet (500 m).

At 3:27:33, Sullenberger radioed a mayday call to New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) : "... this is Cactus 1539 [sic – correct call sign was Cactus 1549], hit birds. We've lost thrust on both engines. We're turning back towards LaGuardia". Air traffic controller Patrick Harten told LaGuardia's tower to hold all departures, and directed Sullenberger back to Runway 13. Sullenberger responded, "Unable".

Sullenberger asked controllers for landing options in New Jersey, mentioning Teterboro Airport. Permission was given for Teterboro's Runway 1, but Sullenberger responded: "We can't do it ... We're gonna be in the Hudson". The aircraft passed less than 900 feet (270 m) above the George Washington Bridge. Sullenberger commanded over the cabin address system, "Brace for impact", and the flight attendants relayed the command to passengers. Meanwhile, air traffic controllers asked the Coast Guard to caution vessels in the Hudson and ask them to prepare to assist with rescue.

Ditching and evacuation

About ninety seconds later, at 3:31 pm, the plane made an unpowered ditching, descending southwards at about 125 knots (140 mph; 230 km/h) into the middle of the North River section of the Hudson tidal estuary, at 40.7695°N 74.0046°W on the New York side of the state line, roughly opposite West 50th Street (near the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum) in Manhattan and Port Imperial in Weehawken, New Jersey. Flight attendants compared the ditching to a "hard landing" with "one impact, no bounce, then a gradual deceleration." The ebb tide then began to take the plane southward.

Sullenberger opened the cockpit door and ordered evacuation. The crew began evacuating the passengers through the four overwing window exits and into an inflatable slide/raft deployed from the front right passenger door (the front left slide failed to operate, so the manual inflation handle was pulled). A panicked passenger opened a rear door, which a flight attendant was unable to reseal.Water was also entering a hole in the fuselage and through cargo doors that had come open, so as the water rose the attendant urged passengers to move forward by climbing over seats. One passenger was in a wheelchair. Finally, Sullenberger walked the cabin twice to confirm it was empty.

The air and water temperatures were about 19 °F (−7 °C) and 41 °F (5 °C) respectively. Some evacuees waited for rescue knee-deep in water on the partially submerged slides, some wearing life-vests. Others stood on the wings or, fearing an explosion, swam away from the plane. One passenger, after helping with the evacuation, found the wing so crowded that he jumped into the river and swam to a boat.

Sullenberger had ditched near boats which facilitated rescue. NY Waterway ferries Thomas Jefferson and then Governor Thomas H. Kean both arrived within minutes and began taking people aboard using a Jason's cradle. Sullenberger advised the ferry crews to rescue those on the wings first, as they were in more jeopardy than those on the slides, which detached to become life rafts. As the plane drifted, passengers on one slide, fearing that the boat would crush them, shouted for it to steer away. The last person was taken from the plane at 3:55 pm.

About 140 New York City firefighters responded to nearby docks, as did police, helicopters, and various vessels and divers. Other agencies provided medical help on the Weehawken side of the river, where most passengers were taken.


Good Job Sully and FO Skiles!

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Reply 10 Years Ago Today: Miracle on the Hudson (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Jan 2019 OP
malaise Jan 2019 #1
leftynyc Jan 2019 #2
akraven Jan 2019 #3
Proud Liberal Dem Jan 2019 #4

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Jan 15, 2019, 08:21 AM

1. I remember watching it live with fellow

Duress. Damn time flies.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Jan 15, 2019, 08:24 AM

2. Our head of Human Resources


(retired since) was on that plane. We found out quickly every one was okay so it was just a matter of getting him over to the company apartment, one of our designers went to Lord & Taylor and picked up clothes and did an amazing job with size except for the shoes which were a little too small. Such a wonderful man who told us the biggest lesson he learned was that he wasn't afraid to die - that he felt right with G-d.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Jan 15, 2019, 06:55 PM

3. We both so remember this. What one hell of a great pilot, copilot and rescue operation.

Thank you again, SIR!

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Jan 15, 2019, 07:03 PM

4. Avoid the movie

It was horrible and made it seem as though Sully was put “on trial” by the government for his decision (no such thing actually happened though).

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