Today in History: US Airways Miraculously Lands on Hudson

Today in History: US Airways Miraculously Lands on Hudson

M.C. Millman 

On January 15, 2009, U.S. Airways flight 1549 made a miraculous emergency landing in the Hudson River, saving all 155 people on the plane. 

Shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport at around 3:25 p.m., Airbus A320 flew into a flock of geese. Both engines were damaged, and repeated attempts to restart the engines were unsuccessful. 

Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, a 57-year-old airline pilot who was in the United States Air Force until 1980, notified LaGuardia's air control that the plane was returning to the airport. When the aircraft continued to descend, Sullenberger realized the plane would not make it back.

The pilot then asked controllers about landing options in New Jersey, and permission was given for the plane to land at Teterboro Airport. Soon after, Sullenberger realized the plane wouldn't reach Teterboro either. The next best option was the Hudson. 

Air traffic controllers had the Coast Guard prepare and assist with a rescue on the river. Before gliding into the water, air traffic controllers at LaGuardia reported seeing the plane clear the George Washington Bridge by less than 900 feet. According to CNN, Sullenberger commanded over the cabin address system for passengers to "brace for impact."

Only five people were seriously injured, with no fatalities. Sullenberger became a national hero to many, with New York State Governor David Paterson calling the incident "a Miracle on the Hudson." U.S. President George W. Bush said he was "inspired by the skill and heroism of the flight crew as well as the dedication and selflessness of the emergency responders and volunteers who rescued passengers from the icy waters of the Hudson."

While a National Transportation Safety Board official described the event as "the most successful ditching in aviation history," some were critical of Sullenberger's decision to land in the Hudson River. A lengthy investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that his decision was appropriate and, given the circumstances, provided the highest probability of survival.

The pilots and flight attendants received the Master's Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in recognition of their "heroic and unique aviation achievement."

The aircraft was removed from the Hudson a few days after the landing and was purchased by the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. The museum put the plane and its engines on display.


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