‘Brace for Impact’ – 10-Year Anniversary of ‘Miracle on the Hudson’

A US Airways jet taking off from LaGuardia

By Jesse Sokolow on 15 January 2019
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Tuesday marked the tenth anniversary of what became known as the Miracle on the Hudson.

US Airways Flight 1549 was an Airbus A320 that, after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, struck a flock of Canada Geese northeast of the George Washington Bridge.

With both engines out, the aircraft had no power and was unable to reach a nearby airport or runway. Captain Chesley Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles successfully glided the aircraft to a ditching in the Hudson River.

All 155 people on board survived the incident, which an official of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board called “the most successful ditching in aviation history.”

Flying under callsign Cactus 1549, the aircraft was bound for Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, with direct onward service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The flight was cleared for takeoff at 3:24 p.m. local time from LaGuardia’s Runway 4. At 3:27:11 p.m., the aircraft struck a flock of Canada geese at an altitude of 2,818 feet (859 meters) that resulted in loud bangs and fires in both engines, which shut down. Captain Sullenberger radioed a mayday call at 3:27:33 p.m.

“This is Cactus 1539 [sic], hit birds. We’ve lost thrust on both engines. We’re turning back towards LaGuardia,” he said. The air traffic controller directed him back to LaGuardia, but Sullenberger responded “Unable.” After permission was given to land at nearby Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, Sullenberger advised, “We can’t do it … We’re gonna be in the Hudson.” Over the PA, Sullenberger gave the order, “Brace for impact.”

The incident turned Captain Sullenberger into a speaker, author, and safety advocate and resulted in a movie, “Sully,” which starred Tom Hanks as the captain and was released in 2016.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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