US Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on a brisk January afternoon in 2009. Three minutes after takeoff plans changed for the 150 passengers and five crew members on board the flight. They would never reach their destination of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Most of us know flight 1549 as the “Miracle on the Hudson” and the plane’s captain as “Sully”. Thanks to Hollywood heavyweights Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks, this incredible story is coming to theaters.
Watch the trailer and learn more about what happened that cold January day in 2009 below.
The Airbus A320, piloted by Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, a former fighter pilot, was struck by a flock of geese at nearly 3,000 feet.
“Hit birds. We’ve lost thrust on both engines. We’re turning back towards LaGuardia,” Sullenburger radioed to air traffic control. Flight 1549 was cleared to land on runway 13 at LGA Airport, but according to Captain Sully just a few minutes after calling ATC the plane was “unable” to make it there.
New Jersey was the next option. The aircraft was given permission to land on runway 1 at Teterboro Airport just across the Hudson.
“We can’t do it,” Sullenburger told controllers. “We’re going to be in the Hudson.”
Due to lack of altitude, Captain Sully would attempt to bring the plane down as safely as he could in the Hudson River. In addition to his background as a fighter pilot, Captain Sully is a safety expert and glider pilot. According to air traffic controllers who witnessed the event, the aircraft passed less than 900 feet above the George Washington Bridge just 90 seconds before the emergency landing.
“Brace for impact!” Sully announced to the passengers and crew.
Just six minutes after departing LGA, the flight ended in the Hudson River, west of 50th Street in Manhattan and east of Port Imperial in Weehawken, NJ. The landing location was surrounded by operating boats, which maximized the chance of rescue.
Sullenberger immediately gave the “evacuate” order, and the crew to swiftly got the 150 passengers onto the wings and other safe emergency exit slides of the plane. The aircraft was quickly filling with nearly ice-cold water and one passenger was in a wheelchair, but they all made it out. Waiting for rescue, there were passengers knee deep in water on the partially submerged slides, others standing on the wings, and some, fearing exploding, swam away from the plane. It was 20 degrees that afternoon, and the Hudson River was nearly 36 degrees.
Responding almost immediately a NY Waterway ferry was in the seen within four minutes, followed quickly by a second ferry. Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises were in route to assist in the rescue as well.
In the end, all 155 passengers and crew members were rescued, with only five serious injuries. Given Captain Sully’s background, you would not have been able to hand pick a pilot more equipped to tackle an incident like this, but by the grace of God, he was flying that plane on that very unlucky day.
The accident “has to go down as the most successful ditching in aviation history,” a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board said a day after the incident. “These people knew what they were supposed to do and they did it — and as a result, no lives were lost.”
Captain “Sully” Sullenberger received national praise for his heroic actions, along with the flight crew, and New York State Governor David Paterson famously named the event what we all know it as today: a “Miracle on the Hudson”.