15 Years Later: US Airways Flight 1549 Safely Touched Down in the Hudson River

by Anthony Losanno
US Airways 1549

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Fifteen years ago today, US Airways flight US1549 from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River shortly after takeoff due a to a bird strike. Amazingly, only a few injuries were suffered and all passengers managed to safely leave the aircraft.

The Airbus A320 was carrying 155 passengers and crew on flight 1549. It had just taken off when a flock of Canadian Geese struck the engine just 4.5 miles from LaGuardia Airport (LGA). Several loud bangs and flames poured from both engines as they shut down.

US Airways

The 57-year-old captain, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, was a former US Air Force fighter pilot who had been a commercial airline pilot since 1980. He was also a glider pilot, which assisted in his masterful landing. The first officer was Jeffrey Skiles. He was 49 at the time and this was his first A320 assignment flying as a pilot.

New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) was contacted and they asked the pilots to return to LaGuardia. Unable to do so, Captain Sullenberger requested clearance to land in nearby Teterboro Airport. That was also granted, but it was quickly realized that that would not be possible. Passengers and crew were advised to brace for impact and the plane touched down in the Hudson River. The order to evacuate was given and passengers filed out onto the wings, life-rafts, and the 19-degree water.

Nearby boats including two NY Waterway ferries and the US Coast Guard rescued all of the passengers and within 25 minutes of the plane hitting the water, all onboard were safely on boats. Passengers and crew needing medical attention were taken to medical facilities in Weehawken, NJ.

Passengers received a letter of apology, $5,000 in compensation for lost baggage (and $5,000 more if they could prove more costly losses), top-tier elite status, and a refund of their ticket price. In May 2009, they received any belongings that had been recovered and reportedly an additional $10,000 if they signed a waiver and did not sue US Airways.

Anthony’s Take: “The Miracle on the Hudson,” as the incident was deemed, was truly a miracle. The skill of the captain and the well-executed rescue saw everyone onboard reach safety. I remember being in my NYC office at the time and watching the incident unfold on a TV in the office.

(Image Credits: Greg L and Edmund Seeger via Flickr.)

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