Emergency landing on the Hudson: an accident January 15, 2009


One of the most anticipated premieres of September is the American film “The Miracle on the Hudson, ” directed by Cléne Eastwood. The Todd Komarniki scenario is based on real events on January 15, 2009, when pilots of the New York-Charlotte (North Carolina) flight made an emergency landing on Hudson of an aircraft of US Airways 308 seconds after takeoff. The article is devoted to one of the few aviation incidents that have gone without human victims due to the immaculate actions of the crew.


Aviation accident

Flight 1549 departed from LaGuardia Airport late. Due to bad weather, one hundred and fifty passengers and five crew members waited for permission to take off until 15:24. The sky was cleared, but a storm was expected, so people dreamed of getting to their destination as quickly as possible. The French-made Airbus A320 was in operation for only 10 years and was known as a fairly reliable aircraft, so nothing foreshadowed trouble. For an experienced crew, the fourth day of flights ended, after which rest was to follow.

At 91st seconds, the co-pilot saw a flock of birds with side vision, after which there was a feeling that the airliner stopped abruptly, bumping into a concrete wall. Both engines died out, and a fire started on the left. After transmitting a distress signal, the crew began to verify their actions with the emergency procedures map. Restarting the engines was impossible due to the low height, and the landing strip offered by the airport dispatcher did not guarantee success. Emergency landing of the A320 on the Hudson seemed the only way out in a difficult situation. The captain of the airliner had only seconds to make a decision, on whose loyalty 155 people depended.


By the will of fate, the liner was in the hands of an experienced crew.

Captain Chesley Sullenberger, born in 1951, was to celebrate his fifty-eighth birthday a few days later. He has years of military service and a raid of 19, 663 hours. Twenty-nine years old, a top-class pilot gave civil aviation, he was an expert in flight safety.

For the forty-nine-year-old Jeffrey Skiles, this was one of the first flights on the Airbus A320. But he was perfectly prepared theoretically, for he had just completed retraining for this class of aircraft, having a total flight time of 15, 643 hours.


Landing the A320 on the Hudson seemed both the only possible way to avoid a catastrophe. Decoding the negotiations in the cabin of the liner will show how accurate and cool their actions were, which will allow the mayor of New York to call Chesley Sullenberger "Captain Tranquility". Experienced were flight attendants who prevented a panic on board. Each of them gave aviation more than 25 years.

Emergency landing

When the sound of engines rang through the cabin and the sound of engines died out, fear seized the passengers. Hearing a characteristic sign of turning on the microphone, everyone hoped for a message that the plane would return to the airport and everything will be fine. But the captain of the ship announced readiness for a hard landing. Chesley Sullenberger turned the A320 southward toward the river, although it moved north-east along the route. The co-pilot provided the tightness required for flooding. Landing on the Hudson required a delicate precision of maneuver; otherwise, a catastrophe was inevitable. The electronic brain continued to work. The crew commander managed to equalize the balance without hitting the George Washington Bridge, and land the plane opposite Manhattan at minimum speed.


It seemed that the liner immediately rushed to the bottom. Some parts of it broke off, people were thrown around the cabin, but after a short time, it floated to the surface like a float. Somewhere formed a leak, the cabin began to fill with ice water. The crew organized the evacuation of passengers. Having seized watercraft, people began to get out through emergency exits to the wings. No one knew whether the explosion of an airliner is possible, but the low temperature of the water did not allow to sail on its own. Only 10 minutes later, the first rescue ferries arrived, the evacuation of the injured began, 78 of which received various injuries. But, most importantly, everyone was alive.

The cause of the accident

In the history of landing the aircraft on the Hudson has become one of the eleven cases of splashdown. There were no casualties at five. It was the fourth success, but the company lost a vehicle worth $ 75 million. It was necessary to thoroughly examine the cause of the accident and assess the activities of the pilots. The people of the United States immediately turned them into national heroes, and the mayor of New York handed the captain a symbolic key to the city. But until all the circumstances were clarified, both were suspended from work. Jeffrey Skyles will be admitted to flights in April, and Chesley Sullenberger - in October 2009. The whole period of work of the national commission both worried about their professional reputation.

When studying turbofan engines, it was found that the compressors were completely broken. Conducted tests with hitting birds, and this was the main cause of the accident, never led to similar results. The found fragments of protein particles in both engines allowed us to carry out DNA analyzes. It was found that by tragic accident the airliner suffered from Canadian geese, whose weight ranged from 4 to 4.5 kg. The clash occurred with a whole flock of migratory birds. 20 years before the accident (landing on the Hudson) 210 aircraft suffered destruction from meetings with birds, killing 200 people. The incident once again reminded of the need to solve an important problem.


Investigation of the actions of the crew

Both engines failed at extremely low altitude - 975 meters. No one has ever taught how to operate a crew in such a situation. Was it possible for pilots to return to the airport? This question was most of all interested in the National Commission for Transportation Safety. They did not have enough height and exactly half the time, some of which was spent on studying the problem of restarting the engine. At a speed of 400 km / h, this turned out to be impossible. Within seconds, the crew was required to read 3.5 pages of instructions, which is impossible in the conditions of instant response. This revealed the need to simplify the list of control measures.

Landing on the Hudson has become an outstanding example of the coordinated action of pilots who have never been specifically trained in landing. We discussed for a long time the question of whether to include these classes in the training program for flight personnel, until in 2013 another incident took place off the coast of Bali. This and other cases show how much in the air depends on the professionalism of the crew. Sullenberger and Skiles have passed their exam for the highest score.


Fate liner

Glider aircraft lasted over the water for 1.5 hours. Moving downstream, he went under the water, but managed to tie him to the pier. During the rescue and towing work was damaged and the left engine sank, discovered by divers only on January 23. Landing on the Hudson within the city could have caused him and residents harm, but this did not happen. The liner, which cannot be restored, after carrying out the research, was transported to North Carolina, where since 2012 it has been exhibited as an exhibit in the Aviation Museum.

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