It was pure coincidence that last week I addressed the issue of bird strikes. US Airways Flight 1549, in all likelihood, proved that enough birds can bring down even the best aeronautical technology of our time. Despite my irreverent title, it should open up at least some discussion on co-existence, if that’s possible. But this isn’t a second bird blog – it’s about the successful forced landing and the key points it illustrates.
Air Safety Foundation just completed a special seminar in North Las Vegas this week regarding safety of flight in urban areas. This was done after two back-to-back fatal accidents last summer. The director of county airports decided an airspace grab would resolve the problem to his satisfaction and we’ll leave that for AOPA to address. Our interest is in how to make landing lemonade out of an urban lemon landing zone.
US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger III perfectly demonstrated several key points of the seminar.
- The “impossible turn” back to the runway probably won’t work – we see this too many times as pilots attempt to return, only to stall out and spin in.
- Find something soft and cheap to hit – What could be better than the Hudson River? We could’ve asked for a midsummer emergency where survivors merely dissolve over a period of hours rather than freezing in a matter of minutes but this is far better than banging into buildings.
- “Fly the thing as far into the crash as possible” was the excellent advice of Bob Hoover to dissipate the energy over as long a period of time as possible
- Touch down in a normal landing attitude – Airplanes are built to dissipate tremendous force if it can be appropriately distributed. My landings are periodic testimony to that fact.
- Don’t panic – something much easier said than done but highly effective advice
- Immediate rescue is critical – without the Hudson River’s flotilla of boats and some expert management by both the mariners and the rescue teams, the landing would still have been successful but many of the passenger would have drowned or frozen.
This accident will become a landmark study and a tribute to the crew, the passengers and the emergency response teams. GA can learn a lot from this one even though it might not appear to be applicable to light aircraft. Final thought – well done New York!!!