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Chesley Sullenberger: An American Hero

01/16/2009

Update: Video of ditched plan via hotair.com; plane enters video frame at ~2:00; within a minute after splash down, people emerge from plane; within the next 2 minutes, ferry boat moves in. Incredible.

With a total flight time of approximately 3 minutes and 24 seconds, US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger made the split-second decision to turn his jet around nearly 180 degrees so as to land in the Hudson River — and did so without a problem.

Update: Another video, apparently from the AP:

Update: ChesleySullenberger.com.

AP:

NEW YORK (AP) – A US Airways pilot ditched his disabled jetliner into the frigid Hudson River on Thursday afternoon after a collision with a flock of birds apparently knocked out both engines, but officials said rescuers pulled all 155 people on board into boats as the plane sank.There were no immediate reports of any serious injuries.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an experienced pilot, said it appeared the pilot did “a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure everybody got out.” And Gov. David Patterson pronounced it “a miracle on the Hudson.”

Flight 1549 went down minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport for Charlotte, N.C., splashing into the river near 48th Street in midtown Manhattan. …

“The captain said, `Brace for impact because we’re going down,’” [passenger Jeff Kolodjay of Norwalk, CT] said. He said passengers put their heads in their laps and started praying. He said the plane hit the water pretty hard, but he was fine.

“It was intense. It was intense. You’ve got to give it to the pilot. He made a hell of a landing,” Kolodjay said.

The plane was submerged in the icy waters up to the windows when rescuers in police and Coast Guard vessels and ferry boats arrived, opened the door and pulled passengers in yellow life vests from the aircraft, whose fuselage appeared intact. The plane was sinking in the near-freezing water on one of the coldest days of the year, with the mercury around 20 degrees.

Police divers rescued a few people from the water, Bloomberg said. Other passengers were able to walk out onto the wings, then onto rescue boats.

Paramedics treated at least 78 patients, fire officials said. The Coast Guard said it rescued 35 people who were immersed in the cold water and ferried them to shore. Most were sent to hospitals. No information was released on their condition.

Witnesses said the pilot appeared to guide the plane down.

“I see a commercial airliner coming down, looking like it’s landing right in the water,” said Bob Read, who saw it from his office at the television newsmagazine “Inside Edition.” “This looked like a controlled descent.”

Barbara Sambriski, a researcher at The Associated Press, saw the plane go down from the news organization’s high-rise office. “I just thought, ‘Why is it so low?’ And, splash, it hit the water,” she said.

The pilot reported a “double bird strike” less than a minute after taking off, said Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Union. The controller sent the aircraft back toward LaGuardia, but the pilot saw an airport below him and asked what it was, Church said. It was Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, and the pilot asked to land there, Church said.

The instruction to land at Teterboro was the last communication with the plane before it went into the river, Church said.

US Airways said 150 passengers, three flight attendants and two pilots were on board the jetliner.

-Phil

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