Thursday, January 15, 2009

US Airways Flight 1549

Call it another case for angels, because the flight crew - and particularly the pilot - of Flight 1549 performed nothing short of a miracle today in New York. They ditched a US Airways Airbus A320 into the Hudson River, and saved 146 passengers and 5 crew.

Two minutes into the flight from LaGuardia International Airport(LGA)at approximately 3000 feet, the plane hit a flock of geese and ingested some of the birds into both engines, causing them to lose power. Descending too rapidly to make a dry landing at nearby Teterboro airport in New Jersey, the pilot had to think of something fast. Cruising the shoreline of the Hudson River, there was no safe way to make it to the heavily populated dry land without casualties, so the pilot landed gear-up in the frigid river.

This is no small feat because, as one can see from the picture, the A320's engines hang from the wings lower than the fuselage. If they hit the water, it would slap the nose - and hence the cockpit - down into the water violently, possibly injuring the crew and rendering them unconscious, or possibly causing the plane to dive. The pilot had to keep the nose up not only to slow the plane as much as possible through wind resistance, but also to keep the engines out of the water until their speed was sufficiently slow to bring them into the water safely.

Another aspect of the flight that may have made this miracle possible was the close proximity of the destination; the flight was headed to North Carolina. Because of this, the fuel tanks were not full, which not only reduced the weight of the aircraft significantly but also provided extra buoyancy from the amount air in the tanks, which kept the fuselage afloat long enough for first responders and anyone with a boat to evacuate the passengers.

There can be no mistake, however, that the pilot of this flight will be sought out by virtually every media outlet, both big and small, and rightly so. He deserves kudos of the highest regard. How he handles the sudden fame is something to be discussed at a later date, as this is a time for pure celebration for the souls of 151 people. Experience has taught me that true heroes never consider themselves to be such, and I suspect that this pilot will not disappoint in that regard.

All I can say is, thank God that they are all safe and that we have had such a wonderful story to kick off 2009. Maybe it will be a good year after all.

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