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Archive for January 16th, 2009

Below is a Washingtonpost.com article from 1-15-09 that encapsulates the events on the Hudson River in NYC that allowed 155 people to walk away for a ditched water landing in extremely chilly conditions.

(If you don’t like this particular description of events, pick another from the 1032 that were on the web by that evening. Any assessment will work for the questions I am raising under the sub titled heading that precedes the article.)

Determined but unpredictable

A Water Landing

An unlikely event plays out on the Hudson River


Friday, January 16, 2009; Page A18

THE NEXT TIME you’re tempted to ignore a flight attendant’s plea to direct your attention to the front of the cabin for safety instructions, remember yesterday’s dramatic Hudson River landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549. The aircraft had just taken off from New York’s La Guardia Airport en route to Charlotte when both engines were reportedly knocked out after being hit by birds following takeoff. Remarkably, the 150 passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants were rescued.

This crash could have been so much worse. That it wasn’t is a testament to a number of actors in the drama, particularly the pilots, that unfolded above the river’s frigid waters. By all accounts, the pilots brought the Airbus 320 down in a controlled manner, and the crew prepared passengers during what little time they had. A passenger interviewed on television said, “We hit hard!” But because of the pilots’ actions, the plane neither broke apart on impact nor sank quickly. One can only imagine the fear inside the cabin, especially after water started to fill it. That everyone got off the plane without life-threatening injury, despite the bone-chilling air and water temperatures, speaks of their pulling together in a time of crisis. The stretch of the Hudson where Flight 1549 went down is served by a constant flow of ferries between Manhattan and New Jersey. Within minutes of the plane’s entering the water, eyewitnesses said, boats were on scene to help pull passengers to safety until New York law enforcement could get there to lead the rescue.

Federal investigators will examine the plane to find out what exactly happened. But the lesson for everyone in all this is to pay attention to those preflight instructions. “In the unlikely event of a water landing” now has special resonance.

The events of the day were just as you heard or read about in the media. 81 tons of metal with millions of interconnected parts and environment physics malfunctioned after take off. No one has paused long enough to pose and extend answers to any of three questions…

Do you believe this was a set of miracles or a consequence of the 437 hours of training of the pilot and crew?” Pick one…

After a problem was detected by the pilot and co-pilot, did their behavior or intervention of Allah, Buddha, God, chance or karma etc., result in the plane landing as it did in the river?” Select the interventionist you favor…

Did the pilot and crew depend on any other agency, including the tower, to do what they did? Select a contributor to their set of results…

Can you explain why the consequences of this aviation event were what they were and other aviation events ended had less desirable consequences?” Please respond and share your views, beliefs and theories…

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[Update 1/20:  Here we see new details coming out on this flight… so does this change the evaluation of the consequences and behavior?]

Most reports on the Hudson Plane Landing are very much a praise of the crew and the captain. For good reason.

Ah, contingencies of context.   We’re assigning value to the pilots actions based on the consequences.  Perhaps if the plane had trouble with the water landing we would be criticizing his methods.

Consider this statement from the report:

The pilot and air traffic controller discussed options, including landing at Teterboro airport in New Jersey, the official said. Then there was a “period of time where there was no communications back, and I’m assuming he was concentrating on more important things.”

How many times have we heard after a tragedy that this same lack of communication resulted in the disaster?

So now, is it better to concentrate and non communicate with the controller?

For amazement, view some of the social network shots and stories.

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