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Miracle on the Hudson

By Mahons On January 15th, 2019

The Hudson River winds 315 miles from the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York south to Mew York City where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It is a tidal river with the tides effecting its flow all the way up to Troy, New York. It was as critical to the nation’s development as any river including the mighty Mississippi. It was named after the English explorer Henry Hudson who sailed up it looking for a norhwest passage to China. During the American Revolution a wooden chain was placed across it at West Point to deny the British Ships access up to Albany. Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle and Ichabod Crane roamed its shores. The Erie Canal was built into it which allowed trade and prosperity. Pete Seegar sailed up and down, a troubador who rallied environmentalists to keep it clean. The Palisade Cliffs rising above the mighty flow of water.

Ten years ago a pilot named Sullenberger landed a commercial airline on the river saving the lives of all aboard.

That astounding event transpired virtually minutes after takeoff. Birds had flown into the engine, sounding like sneakers in a dryer. Told by air traffic controllers that there were two runways available to land on the pilot, recognizing he couldnt make it to them, and above a densely populated City, calmly advised he would land on the river instead. It was, he later said, a decision based on theory as opposed to practice. First responders then rushed in time to save the passengers and the crew.
No pilot had captured the nation’s imagination so since at least Lindbergh. And he has walked the path of fame and admiration in a dignified and modest way ever since. A truly heroic and wonderful story of Flight 1549 that deserves to be remembered this day.

9 Responses to “Miracle on the Hudson”

  1. If the nouns ‘legend’ or ‘hero’ are to be ascribed to anyone then I can’t think of anyone better deserving. The dignified, unassuming Clarke Kent of aviation.

    What he did on the Hudson that day really was nothing short of miraculous.

  2. Happy post, coz as soon as I saw the title I presumed the great pilot had died.

    Interesting comment about theory rather than practice saving the day. It would normally be unusual for an experienced professional to say that, but the science of airflight is now so developed and sophisticated that it covers almost all contingencies. (it has to be: you can walk away from a car that breaks down, but the aerodynamics and all other factors of flight must be exactly right and well known before a plane leaves the ground)

  3. Because of the almost unique qualities of water compared to other surfaces it is almost impossible to properly simulate a landing on water. That is why it was more theory than practice. Pilots can simulate most conditions in controlled settings. They can’t do so with water landings.

    In reality landings on water are virtually unheard of. They also, when successful, tend to involve much smaller planes. It was a combination of tremendous skill of the pilot and co-pilot, and ultimately a hefty amount of luck, that landed that plane with only a few serious injuries and no fatalities. The fact is that, even with all the skill in the world, the emergency services should have been fishing at least 100 bodies out of the Hudson that day.

    Similar to Paul’s comments about legend and hero the word “miracle” is thrown about far too easily. Most things that seem to happen that maybe shouldn’t have are dubbed a miracle. The United States winning hockey at the 1980 Winter Olympics is not a miracle. Herm Edwards scoring a late game touchdown against the Giants is not a miracle.

    That Captain Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles were able to glide that plane in without a single person dying, never mind without 155 people dying, is an absolute miracle.

  4. Google ‘Gimli Glider’

  5. Captain Sullenberger is one of my personal heroes.

    Just about every commercial pilot is committed to safety, but Sully was a fanatic about it. He also was a skilled glider pilot, who had practiced unpowered landings many times.

    He was the right man at the right time because he made himself the right man.

    I respect his demeanor so much. Immediately after the landing, NYPD cops were quoted as being impressed with how cool calm and collected he was.

    When he went on the Letterman Show soon after, he made sure that the entire crew came with him on stage.

    He was of course an Air Force pilot as a young man, and his dad was a Naval officer before him. Duty, and looking after all your people, including all the passengers was and is everything to him

    I remember conversing on ATW about this in the immediate aftermath of it, with mahons, Daphne and Charles I believe.

    Captain Sullenberger, I salute you.

  6. “Things worthwhile generally don’t just happen. Luck is a fact, but should not be a factor. Good luck is what is left over after intelligence and effort have combined at their best. Negligence or indifference are usually reviewed from an unlucky seat. The law of cause and effect and causality both work the same with inexorable exactitudes. Luck is the residue of design.”

    Branch Rickey, the great general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers ( who hired Jackie Robinson as the first black player in modern baseball )

  7. Interesting stuff, Phantom.

  8. As a one-time amateur pilot trainee, I will always remember the mantra of my instructor with regard to landings: “Stick controls the speed, throttle controls the rate of descent”. That’s why you will often notice your plane’s engines ebb and flow on the final approach to landing as the pilot adjusts for potential overshoot or undershoot.

    All plane landings are controlled stalls, i.e. the plane loses flying speed about twenty feet or so above the landing surface. Hopefully that surface is the start of a long runway, but it wasn’t in this case.

    As soon as Sullenberger lost the engines due to bird-strike, he only had the stick to control the plane’s height with. The real skill was to use it to reduce the speed to about 100mph or so (the typical stall speed of modern commercial aircraft) about twenty feet above the river, and being able to navigate to the Hudson while losing height, with no throttle to recover height if he got the speed wrong.

    Even Biggles would have struggled to achieve what Sullenberger achieved that day.

  9. then!

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