Thursday, January 15, 2009

Remarkable Airship Skills Save the Plane

Flying a plane is no easy feat, but landing one – on water – is next to impossible. Today, a pilot did just that, saving 155 lives.

U. S Airways airbus made an emergency landing in the Hudson River near New York City, and all 150 passengers and five crew survived with minimal injuries.

Although the American National Transportation and Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the crash, early reports indicate the plane may have hit a flock of birds.

It is said any landing you can walk away from is a good landing – one may add swim to that description. Landing a plane on water isn’t uncommon, but having minimal to no injuries from such a wet landing is.

Most planes that have to make a crash-landing into water usually break apart, leading to numerous fatalities. Not so with today’s water-based landing, thanks to an alert and very capable crew.

Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger, III was in charge of that plane, and brought it down safely – doing what everyone in an emergency situation hopes happens – saving the plane and crew.

Sullenberger’s forty-plus-years of flight experiences paid off big time, as the worst injuries appear to have been caused by the freezing temperatures of the water, not the landing of the plane. The former U.S. Air Force pilot has flown Learjets, Boeing 737s, DC-9s and Airbus A320s – which is what he landed today in the Hudson River.

The last time a plane had to ditch in water was in 2002, when A Garuda Boeing 737 lost power to an engine and hit the water off Java Island. In this instance one person was killed, but the remaining 59 people aboard were alive. Prior to that, in 1996 a Boeing 767 from Ethiopian Air ran out of fuel during a hijack attempt, and fell out of the sky into the shallow waters just off the shoreline – only 52 people out of the 175 onboard survived.

Clearly, any time a plane has to ditch in water is an air emergency – commonly called a Mayday. Whenever a plane declares a mayday, everything depends on the flight crew’s ability to remain calm, and their knowledge and experiences in being able to handle whatever is thrown at them. Often they will be dealing with many alarms, warnings, and malfunctioning gear – all of which they have to consider in making their decisions which ultimately affect the lives of all on the plane, and on the ground or water beneath.

The Hudson River is a channel for boats, ferries and other watercraft. Landing a plane on this body of water is like landing on a busy road – just instead of cars in the path of the plane, there could be boats and ships.

Luck may have had a lot to do with today’s incident – but the brunt of the success is from the captain and his crew – outstanding flying!

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