Thursday, January 15, 2009

US Airways Flight 1549 Crashes in Hudson River

US Airways Flight 1549, AirBus A320. Crashed in Hudson River. January 15, 2009.
photo Brendan Modermid/
Reuters in The New York Times.

“Brace for impact because we're going down.”

EVERYONE'S ALIVE: 150 passengers, 3 flight attendants, 2 pilots

The New York Times

Moments after the plane, a twin jet Airbus A320 bound for Charlotte, N.C., crashed into the river, at least a half-dozen small craft converged on the crippled aircraft and rescued the freezing passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants.

“It would appear the pilot did a masterful job of landing in the river and making sure everybody got out,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at an early evening news conference. “I had a long conversation with the pilot, he walked the plane twice and made sure that everybody was out.”

Some of the passengers were taken to hospitals in New York and New Jersey, and several were treated for hypothermia after being plucked from the wings of the aircraft. It was one of the coldest days of the year in New York City, with the air temperature in the 20s and water temperature about 40 degrees.

A spokeswoman for the F.A.A., Laura J. Brown, said that a flock of birds might have been sucked into the jet engines, but several aircraft manufacturers said such occurrences are rare.

Stunned and shivering passengers who were rescued from the jetliner described a frightening scene in the three minutes from takeoff to a hard landing into the river, and then a surprisingly controlled exit from the partly submerged aircraft.

Jeff Kolodjay, 31, who was traveling with his father and a brother and was seated over the left wing, said he heard the left engine blow.

"The left engine just blew and there were flames,” Mr. Kolodjay said. “It started smelling a lot like gasoline. The pilot got on and said, ‘You guys got to brace for a hard impact.’ That’s when everyone started to say their prayers. I got to give it to the pilot, he did a hell of a landing.”

Most witnesses on the Manhattan side of the Hudson recalled an eerie sight of a plane flying too low over the Hudson River, sending chilling reminders of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
MONTHS to know what happened.

Great landing, great crew. (As the saying goes, any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. Or in this case, float/swim from. *laughs*)

What airport do you want to land at in New York City?

Newark's fine. JFK's alright.
How many times does a plane end up in Flushing Meadows? Or worse.

This morning I flew in (to JFK) on the A320. We didn't take a swim. I did however, as we crossed the outer marker, reach under my seat and touched my life-jacket. Then the life-jacket in the (empty) middle seat. And finally, I checked the jacket for the 75 year-old Chilean woman on the aisle.

When the FAA report comes out in 6-8 months, I give 2:1 odds the captain has trained today's precise scenario (or one so close as makes no difference) in the Box, within the last three months.

Clean evolution. Well done to all hands.


Updated 9:40 PM

Sara wrote the following in comments:
Group News Blog (Sara Robinson)

According to MSNBC, the pilot is one of the FAA's senior safety instructors and trainers -- exactly the guy you want in that seat on a day like this. And they way he did it was the stuff they'll be teaching in textbooks for decades to come.

The flock of geese that they flew through was apparently so large it showed up on air traffic radar.

Apparently, the trick to this kind of landing is 1) smooth water (he probably wouldn't have made it in open ocean) and 2) landing with the tail down and nose up, which ensures it doesn't turn into an instant submarine.

The plane was completely evacuated within 90 seconds. The pilot was the last one off, having walked the length of the plane down and back to make sure it was completely empty.

Because the plane went down right in front of a major marina/landing area, there were boats arriving on the scene almost as soon as the plane was empty -- a good thing, because the water was near-freezing, and even a few minutes' more delay would have subjected the passengers some serious and possibly fatal hypothermia. Only one major casualty: a woman who suffered two broken legs.

The plane has been dragged to the bank of the river, where it's still floating. It appears to be salvageable.
In the moment, the body acts.
  • jerking one's hand back from the hot stove
  • smelling gas
  • evading a car pulling into your lane
  • responding to a problem while teaching a class
  • answering your child's question
Instant. Reflexive.

The actions are so clear and perfect that to an outside observer the actions could appear to be reflex. They are not. These acts are TRAINED PRACTICES which as a result of long practice, operate at the level of spinal-reflex for some people...and not for others.

One can perform both body practices:
  • flying a plane,
  • cardiovascular surgery,
  • flight paramedic during an emergency,
  • another car pulls into your lane at 85 and there's only the median available,
  • reacting to a physical attack with the martial art(s) you're trained in
And linguistic practices:
  • being a judge
  • a teacher
  • a parent
  • a social worker
  • a clinical psychologist
  • a politician giving the speech of her life
Practice, practice, endless practice.

Eventually practice takes the physical possibilities and the linguistic possibilities, and embodies them -- embodies: puts the possibilities into a body at a reflexive level all the way down into the nervous system -- such that when the moment comes one doesn't THINK through the issue; one ACTS, one flies, one BE's without needing to think (or the thinking is happening at a level WAY FASTER than any possible thinking you thought possible...) yet the checklist of essentials remains.

This is where martial arts experts get their blinding speed, where warriors live and cherries die, where virtuoso surgeons save patients which people who are only competent sometimes do not...

Practice produces embodiment.
Embodiment allows results which appear perfect.
Miraculous, even.

We know how to grow a super-athlete.
We know what works and doesn't with smart kids.

Today, as Sara points out, the practice paid off. Check it...
The plane was completely evacuated within 90 seconds. The pilot was the last one off, having walked the length of the plane down and back to make sure it was completely empty.

That's the real deal.