Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Miracle on the Hudson"

Being somewhat sleep-deprived lately--it's hard for me to find a comfortable sleeping position--I took a nap this afternoon, and, waking up, turned on the TV. Imagine my shock when I found NY1 News in the midst of a press conference regarding what's been described as possibly the most successful emergency landing on water ("ditching") in commercial aviation history: US Airways flight 1549, en route from LaGuardia Airport (in the Borough of Queens, New York City) to Charlotte, North Carolina, lost power in both engines within minutes of take-off, and the pilot, unable to return to LAG, landed on the Hudson River, with all 155 passengers and crew, to the best of anyone's current knowledge, rescued. Apparently, every commercial ferry (New York Waterway?), tour boat (Circle Line?), Coast Guard, Police and Fire Department boat, etc. within hailing distance raced to the scene within literally minutes, plucking passengers out of the water and off the wings, tail, and inflatable boats on which they were standing after exiting the plane. The pilot did not leave until walking the length of the plane's interior twice to ensure that no one was left behind. Police Department divers later double-checked the plane for passengers. (Amazingly enough, the plane is still afloat, and is now tied to the pier near the Battery Park City apartment complex [in downtown Manhattan] to which it was towed.) The New York* Police Department, Fire Department, and Port Authority police, along with the Red Cross, worked together with other emergency-response groups to ensure that everyone was rescued (to the best of anyone's current knowledge) and given warm coverings and hot drinks and/or medical treatment or a trip to one of several area hospitals in New York or New Jersey, as necessary.

A thorough investigation by the National Transportation Safely Board will ensue. Current speculation is that this was not a terrorist incident, but, quite possibly, a case of birds being sucked into & disabling the engines.

Kudos to all those involved in the rescue. A special salute to the pilot for his extraordinary skill.

Update, 7:49 PM: It was pointed out by one of the NY1 News reporters that those on the plane were extremely fortunate that the pilot was able to land the plane close to the ferry terminals. Had the plane landed nearer to the Statue of Liberty, rescue would have taken much longer.

*Update, 8:08 PM: Credit is due equally to Police, Fire, and emergency-response units in New Jersey who rushed to the ferry terminal in Weehawken and gave the airline passengers and crew general and medical care and transportation to New Jersey hospitals, as necessary.

Update, 9:05 PM: One of the NY1 News reporters said that passengers gave very high marks to the crew for their excellent job in safely evacuating all of them.

The pilot has over 20 years of experience, and is a former Air Force pilot.

9:20 PM: A caller to NY1 News reminded us to give credit to the co-pilot, as well, saying that this landing had to have been a well-coordinated effort.

9:26 PM: An e-mailer to NY1 News pointed out that the pilot [and co-pilot] managed to land at just the right angle to keep the plane reasonably intact.

Fri., Jan. 16, 2009, 9:49 AM: Here's some video shot by NY1 News during the rescue.

11:31 AM: From NY1 News--Fifty-seven-year-old former Air Force fighter pilot Chesley Sullenberger (a twenty-nine year veteran pilot, "praised by passengers and industry experts for his textbook emergency landing") and the co-pilot and crew receive honorary "key" to the city.


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