SALT LAKE CITY — A decade ago today, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed Flight 1549 on the Hudson River after a bird strike took out the engines on the Charlotte-bound flight. It was a move that would save all 155 individuals on board and be dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
Here’s a look back at the events that transpired that day.
Timeline of events: At 3:24 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 embarks from LaGuardia Airport in New York toward Charlotte, North Carolina. The plane is piloted by Sullenberger, a 40-year flying veteran, and his co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles.
- Less than a minute after takeoff, while traveling 250 mph at an altitude of 3,000 feet, the plane encounters a flock of Canada geese, according to the Telegraph, which are sucked into both of the plane’s CFM56-5B engines.
- According to the National Transportation Safety Board, at 3:27 p.m., air traffic controller Patrick Harten contacts Flight 1549 to request a routine course-correction. He’s informed by Sullenberger, “We lost thrust in both engines. We’re turning back towards LaGuardia.” Harten contacts LaGuardia to clear both runways for emergency landing.
- With no thrust and low altitude, Sullenberger decides turning back and gliding to LaGuardia is not a viable option. Nor is landing at an alternative runway, according to reports.
- Sullenberger informs Harten of his change in plans and begins his glide toward the Hudson, clearing the George Washington Bridge with around 900 feet to spare.
- At 3:30, Sullenberger makes his only announcement to the passengers, “Brace for impact,” according to the Telegraph. Traveling at 150 mph with its nose raised, Flight 1549 lands in the frigid water of the Hudson River in an area that was miraculously clear of all watercraft.
- Evacuation begins and crew members move passengers onto the plane’s wings through the four mid-cabin emergency exits. Some passengers stay inside to hand life vests to those already on the wings.
- At around 3:35 p.m., ferries and boats reach the plane and begin offloading passengers. Sullenberger walks the length of the plane twice to search for remaining passengers before exiting.
- According to The Associated Press, one flight attendant and four passengers were hurt, but everyone aboard the plane survived.
Following the event, New York State Gov. David Paterson said, "We had a 'Miracle on 34th Street.' I believe now we have had a 'Miracle on the Hudson.'”
- The “Miracle on the Hudson” was made into a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks in 2016.
- Survivors of the flight have called the events “clarifying” and life-changing, according to the AP.
Utah connection: Darren Beck is a Utah native who was on the flight when it went down 10 years ago. Of the experience, he said:
"People say it wasn't a miracle. I heard there's a book that says any pilot could have done the exact same thing because the technology of those airplanes is so great. For one who lived through it, I just laugh at that. The airplane isn't what decided where to go, to land in the river and not go back to the airport. The airplane didn't determine that the weather was clear and sunny, that the commuter ferries just happened to be on their way out, saw the plane and turned directly to us. There were just a lot of little things that all added up to one big miracle. Plane crashes don't end that way, where everyone gets off alive. It truly was a miracle.5 comments on this story
"People say to me, 'So this airplane crash is the best thing that's ever happened to you?' I say, 'Yeah, it's right up there.' "
Anniversary: Sullenberger tweeted his reflections on the event today, stating that his memories of the event are "vivid" and that his life has been changed forever.
According to The Associated Press, the damaged plane currently resides in the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, where survivors gathered at 3:31 p.m. Eastern time to mark the 10-year anniversary of the event.