These incredible rescue operations saved lives, brought together communities and captivated millions of well-wishers around the world.
When US Airways Flight 1549 ditched in the Hudson River and all of its 150 passengers and five crew members were safely rescued in January, the landing of the airplane by pilot Chesley Sullenberger was quickly proclaimed the “Miracle on the Hudson” and dominated national news for days.
A pilot who virtually grew up in airplane cockpits, writer William Langewiesche set out to analyze what happened in the five-minute flight of US Airways 1549, which lost power in both engines when it collided with a flock of Canada geese. His conclusion after writing a new book “Fly by Wire” — there was no miracle.
“I’m sure Mr. Sullenberger himself wouldn’t have used that word,” Langewiesche said in an interview with CNN. “There was no miracle. There was extremely skillful flying going on and skillful engineering in the background. You can include the flight attendants and the passengers. … There was a lot of altruism, kind of a bravery, soberness. They were not hysterical, and there was no stampeding.
Seconds from disaster
In this incident a collision with a flock of geese at low altitude caused both engines of the plane to lose thrust. Captain Sullenberger immediately lowered the aircraft’s nose to optimise glide speed and weighed up his options including turning back to LaGuardia Airport or landing at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.
Given the total loss of power and time constraints, he ultimately opted to land on the Hudson River. His final words before losing contact with air traffic control were calm but direct:
We’re gonna be in the Hudson.
With the support of his crew and copilot he safely landed the plane on the Hudson River. The time between the loss of the engines and landing the plane was 208 seconds, just under four minutes.
The movie details how Captain Sullenberger’s actions were questioned in the days after the incident from air transport authorities for what they saw as a crash landing.
According to the movie, they believed the plane was capable of gliding to the closest airport and that Captain Sullenberger made an error in judgement landing on the Hudson River, ultimately risking the lives of those on board.