Miracle on the Hudson River

January 15, 2009

Captain Chesley Sullenberger, Whose Piloting Skills Successfully Landed a US Airways Twin-Engine Jet in the Hudson River with No Fatalities

Meet Chesley B. Sullenberger III. That’s quite a mouthful, but “Sully,” as he’s known, is quite a man. In fact, he’s a miracle worker. Sullenberger, 57, is the heroic US Airways pilot who — faced with the potentially catastrophic loss of both engines in a twin-engine jet this afternoon — successully crash-landed a crippled Airbus 320 in New York’s frigid Hudson River with no reported fatalities among the more than 150 passengers and crew. Sullenberger, a 28-year veteran of US Airways, also was a U.S. Air Force F4 fighter pilot for more than six years.

The response from New Yorkers to the plight of those stranded in the icy waters of the Hudson and standing on the wings of the partially submerged aircraft was instantaneous. A ferryboat operator was first on the scene. The NYFD, the police department, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies arrived seemingly instantly. Flight 1549 had taken off only three minutes earlier from LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte, NC, when it apparently ran into a flock of birds, in what’s known as a “bird strike.” Sullenberger told the passengers: “Brace for impact.” After impact, Captain Sullenberger reportedly walked the length of the plane twice, to make sure that no one was overlooked and left behind. The crash occurred in an area near 48th Street, in midtown Manhattan.

Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, New York City

Bob Read, who saw the crash from his “Inside Edition” office, told MSNBC: “I see a commercial airliner coming down, looking like it’s landing right in the water. This looked like a controlled descent.” Pilots don’t usually receive much training in how to land a plane which has lost both engines, because this occurs so rarely. But Sullenberger made his gentle landing appear almost effortless.

The passengers couldn’t have asked for a better pilot. Sullenberger, of Danville, California, is the founder of Safety Reliability Methods, a company which provides provides “technical expertise and strategic vision and direction to improve safety and reliability in a variety of high risk industries.” Many of these applications have involved commercial aviation and aircraft carriers. Sullenberger has also participated in USAF and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigations and coauthored an aviation paper with NASA.

Suddenly, the cold wintry day was aglow from within, in the hearts of New Yorkers and viewers nationwide who were glued to their TV screens as the rescue unfolded and as the heroism of Captain Sullenberger became clear.

Read about another hero.

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