USAir Flight 1549

Damn. Just damn.

I was on a conference call with some co-workers who were just across the river when flight 1549 went down, and as the meeting was starting they mentioned a plane had just gone into the river not far from their office. Yesterday was very busy at work, and other than checking out the brief news blurbs and being thankful that everyone survived, I didn’t have a chance to catch up on the story until last night. Amazing stuff, and it doesn’t get any less amazing the deeper you read.

After catching up on details through the usual media outlets I started checking out a forum run by and for commercial airline pilots that turned up when searching for the meaning of some air traffic control lingo I heard on the flight back from Hawaii. Glad I bookmarked it.

Their thread on the incident is here. It’s long, technical, and much of it is fairly obscure for those of us who aren’t airline pilots, but even so it was fascinating to watch the evolution of the thread from “something just happened in NYC,” to “A320 ditched in water. Oh, shit, must be bad” to “whaddaya mean the aircraft is at rest, intact, and ferries are pulling people off the wings??!?” to “here’s the radar track showing both engine failures at around 3000 feet minutes after takeoff and pilot gliding to a safe landing on the river. Is that even possible? OMGWTFBBQ!”

Some sample quotes:

“Remarkable, just proves you can ditch. Hero pilot.”

“First time I have heard of a succesfull (sic) ditching of an airliner. Great job by the crew.”

“Awesome job, deadstick ditching on a ‘Bus!”

“I was one of those who didn’t think it was possible, and that the water landing briefings were bunk.. i was wrong. :P”

“Those FlightAware tracking numbers…look like they might show a remarkable text book job – please let all be safe – because if they are, there’s a few guys / girls who’ve earned many lifetime’s cool free beers after work”

“Some of the greatest airmanship of which I’m aware. \ A beautiful job by true aviators under truly critical conditions. \ And kudos to the cabin crew, who are so important in seeing to the well-being of all PAX aboard. \ Fabulous team work, including by the rescuers.\ True professionals all! \ God bless them.”

“Cant say how they ditched so well, especially with low slung engines, but what they did was the right way to do it. Fantastic Airmanship. WELL DONE.”

“I just want to congratulate the entire crew on a job well done. The fear factor I am sure must have been high. I mean, how many times have we taken off on the same exact flight with our cup of coffee by our side ever so slightly lulled by the gentle whine of the engines. Anticipating yet not expecting our training to be put to use on that very flight. \ You Ladies and Gentlemen, are my heroes. \ I am extremely proud to be in the same profession as those bunch.”

“My groundschool instructors laughed when they were teaching me about aircrafts ditching procedures and capabilites because it was so unlikely that anyone would survive if you ever have to ditch in water. Unbelievable story, makes me proud.”

“Well b**ger me. \ It can be done. \ I’m impressed. \ Well done chaps.”

“Couragous probably too small a word. This crew arrear to have handled this like a trp in the sim.. Nerves of steel and razor sharp reactions”

There’s also a really funny exchange in there where one person comments he’s interested to hear what the water ditching experts have to say about this incident, and then another points out that based on everything we know so far the world’s best water ditching experts are currently busy changing into dry clothes and talking to the NTSB about what they just did on the Hudson 🙂

During/after a busy, frustrating week it’s great to have a story of great professionalism and heroism like this to remind you that there really are some amazing people out there. A big salute to not only Captain Sullenberger, his first officer, and the flight attendants, but also to all the amazing first-responders, the folks who designed and built the Airbus, and everyone else that saved the lives of 155 travelers yesterday.


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