2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the water landing on the Hudson River by US Airways flight 1549. That cold day back in 2009 was supposed to be a routine flight to Charlotte, North Carolina from LaGuardia airport in New York. Little did the crew and passengers know that their flight was going to be anything but routine.
Under the control of First Officer Jeffery Skiles and former Air Force pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the Airbus A320 took off from runway 4. Barely 3000 feet above the ground, the airliner flew into a flock of Canadian geese, disabling the engines and crippling the twin engine jet.
With time running out and the airliner now bleeding precious altitude, Sullenberger took over flying the now crippled jet. With his mind racing, Sullenberger sorted through his options for a safe landing. Shortly after the birdstrike and starting the auxiliary power unit, Sullenberger declared an emergency and was quickly cleared for an emergency landing at LaGuardia.
Having been flying away from LaGuardia since the emergency began, he knew LaGuardia was no longer an option. Working as a team, Sullenberger and Skiles asked for other airports they could land at. At New York TRACON, controller Patrick Harten suggested Teteboro airport, and Sullenberger accepted.
With the A320 still hemorrhaging altitude, Sullenberger was handflying the jet while Skiles ran the QRH checklist for dual engine failure. Seconds later, the veteran pilot knew that the airliner would not reach Teteboro airport.
Having flown in and out of the New York Terminal Area numerous times, Sullenberger was familiar with the airports around LaGuardia. He asked about landing at Newark airport in New Jersey, and was cleared to head to Newark seconds later.
With the powerless jet dropping lower and lower, Sullenberger realized that with their current loss of altitude, the plane would not reach either Teteboro or Newark. Out of options, almost out of time, and still bleeding altitude, Sullenberger and Skiles knew that they were left with no choice but to attempt a ditching on the Hudson River.
Finally having accepted the reality of their situation, Skiles and Sullenberger prepared for the task ahead; ditching the jet and doing it in a way that would eliminate or minimize any chances of the passengers and flight attendants suffering injury or loss of life.
Now mere seconds away from a ditching filled with uncertainty, Sullenberger made the announcement that no airline pilot wants to make, "This is the Captain, brace for impact."
Moments later, the A320 made contact with the frigid waters of the Hudson River. The jet, still going at close to 190 mph, skidded down the river before coming to a juddering stop.
Having survived the ditching, Sullenberger and Skiles knew that they would have to evacuate the downed jet before the frigid waters flooded the cabin. Emerging from the cockpit, Sullenberger gave the evacuation order to flight attendants Donna Dent, Sheila Deil, and Doreen Welsh.
But, one thing complicated the evacuation, flight attendant Doreen Welsh, having been in the jump seat at the back of the cabin, was seriously injured. A piece of metal came up through the cabin floor and sliced her leg open.
Wounded and bleeding, Welsh freed herself from her jump seat and joined Deil and Dent in evacuating the now sinking plane. Once the flight attendants and remaining passengers were evacuated, Sullenberger walked through the submerged cabin and having seen it completely empty, was the last one to leave the plane.
Having seen the floating jet in the river, the ferry Thomas Jefferson dashed to the scene along with other ferries and an NYPD rescue helicopter. EMTs and dozens of ambulances were mobilized to await the passengers and crew.
The passengers and crew were quickly rescued and taken to waiting ambulances where they were rushed to hospitals for treatment. Hours later, still being treated at the hospital, Sullenberger was approached by fellow US Airways pilot and union representative Arnold "Arnie" Gentile. The other pilot walked up to Sullenberger and gave the shaken pilot the news. Out of the 155 passengers and crew onboard, against immeasurable odds, every single one survived!
In just 208 seconds, Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger turned what could have been the darkest day in commercial aviation history into the brightest and exemplified himself, becoming a celebrity and a role model for aspiring pilots the world over.