On January 17, 2009, a Saturday, Pauline and I had a couple of things to celebrate; it was Pauline’s birthday and coincidentally, we had also arranged to go to a party at a friend’s home in our neighbourhood. Shortly after arrival there, with drink in hand, I got chatting to another guest, a man in his mid thirties who, it transpired, worked for Bank of America and often commuted from Charlotte to New York. Bank of America has two US Corporate Headquarters, one in Charlotte, North Carolina and and the other Midtown Manhattan, New York City.
As we talked I made a casual and light-hearted comment about a recent flight from Charlotte to New York, a news story that was barely two days old and very fresh in everyone’s mind. His reply stopped me in my tracks.
Two days previously, on Thursday January 15 2009, US Airways flight 1549 had, shortly after departing from La Guardia Airport, ditched into the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey after losing both engines as a result of colliding with a flock of Canada geese. The flight had been en route to Charlotte and my new friend, Jeff, had been a passenger on that flight.
This is a 22 second video from CCTV from the Manhattan shore as the plane ditched in the Hudson River.
This video is a simulation from the Smithsonian Channel, and is about 4 minutes long.
Apparently, the pilot was very, very cool as he advised the passengers that the plane had no power and he was about to land the Airbus 320 into the Hudson River. The equally calm cabin crew organized the orderly evacuation of the passengers – onto the wings of the now half submerged aircraft. It transpired that Jeff was the first one out of the over-the-wing emergency door on the left side. That also meant that he was standing at the outermost part of the wing – the furthest away from the fuselage. He confessed that he had forgotten to take his own seat cushion as a flotation device, instead picking up one that another passenger had also forgotten. This image shows him on the extreme right of the picture, having given his flotation device to someone in the river, he stands with arms folded waiting for his turn to be rescued.
This video is from the BBC and lasts about 49 minutes. It has more content from passengers on the flight that day.
Last week Pauline and I flew home to Charlotte from New York, on an Airbus 321, on the same scheduled flight, on the same airline, and on the same day of the week, Thursday. I would be lying if I told you that during the take off, and then as we climbed above the East River over Manhattan and towards the Hudson River, I gave none of this a second thought.
The Airbus 320 that was Flight 1549 was recovered from the Hudson and retired as a permanent exhibit at the Carolinas Aviation Museum at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
The pilot on that flight was 58 year old Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III and he has rightly been feted and honoured for what is still referred to as the “Miracle on the Hudson”. After 30 years service with US Airways and its predecessor, Sullenberger retired on March 3, 2010. His final flight was US Airways Flight Number 1167 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was reunited with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles and a half dozen of the passengers on Flight 1549.
The incident is to be adapted into a movie produced by Clint Eastwood. Sully will be portrayed by Tom Hanks and co-pilot Skiles by Aaron Eckhart, and is scheduled for a December 2016 release.
This video is the official NTSB account with the flight tracker combined with the official cockpit/control tower recordings. The green coloured rectangle in the middle of Manhattan is Central Park which is just north of Midtown.
NO ONE WALKS ALONE