US Airways Flight 1549

US Airways Flight 1549

The ditched US Airways Flight 1549 floating on the Hudson River
Accident summary
Date January 15, 2009
Summary Multiple bird strikes resulting in a controlled ditching
Site Hudson River between New York City (near 48th Street) and Weehawken, New Jersey (near Port Imperial), United States
40°46′10″N 74°00′17″W / 40.769498°N 74.004636°W / 40.769498; -74.004636Coordinates: 40°46′10″N 74°00′17″W / 40.769498°N 74.004636°W / 40.769498; -74.004636
Passengers 150[1]
Crew 5
Fatalities 0
Injuries (non-fatal) 100 (95 minor, 5 serious)[2][lower-alpha 1]
Survivors 155 (all)
Aircraft type Airbus A320-214
Operator US Airways
Registration N106US
Flight origin LaGuardia Airport, New York City
Stopover Charlotte Douglas International Airport
Destination Seattle Tacoma International Airport

US Airways Flight 1549 (AWE1549; Callsign: CACTUS 1549) was an Airbus A320-214 flight on January 15, 2009, from New York's LaGuardia Airport to a stopover at Charlotte Douglas International Airport that was forced to make an emergency water landing in the Hudson River. Pilots Captain Chesley Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles safely glided the plane to ditch in the river after multiple bird strikes caused both engines to fail. All 155 passengers and crew aboard the Airbus A320 evacuated from the partially submerged aircraft; they were rescued by nearby watercraft. Several occupants suffered injuries, a few of them serious, but only two required overnight hospitalization. The incident came to be known as the "Miracle on the Hudson", and Captain Sullenberger and the crew were hailed as heroes.[3][4][5]

The aircraft was an Airbus A320-214, registered N106US, operating as a US Airways scheduled domestic commercial passenger flight from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina. About three minutes into the flight, at local time 3:27 p.m. EST, the plane struck a flock of Canada geese during its initial standard instrument departure climb out from LaGuardia, just northeast of the George Washington Bridge. The bird strike caused both jet engines to quickly lose power.

As the aircraft lost altitude, the flight deck crew considered attempting to return to LaGuardia or to land at nearby Teterboro Airport, but decided that the plane could not reach either. They turned southbound and glided over the Hudson, finally ditching the airliner off midtown Manhattan near the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, four minutes after losing power.

The entire crew of Flight 1549 was awarded the Master's Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. The award citations read, "This emergency ditching and evacuation, with the loss of no lives, is a heroic and unique aviation achievement."[6] National Transportation Safety Board member Kitty Higgins described the feat as "the most successful ditching in aviation history."[7][lower-alpha 2]


Flight designations, route, and crew

LaGuardia Runway 4 departure

US Airways Flight 1549 (AWE1549, also designated under a Star Alliance codeshare agreement as United Airlines Flight 1919 UA1919) was a U.S. domestic route from New York City's LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Charlotte Douglas (CLT), with direct onward service to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport in Washington.

On January 15, 2009, the flight was cleared for takeoff from Runway 4 at LaGuardia at 3:24:56 pm Eastern Standard Time (20:24:56 UTC). The crew made its first report after becoming airborne at 3:25:51 as being at 700 feet (210 m) and climbing.[8] There were 150 passengers and five crew members, the captain, first officer, and three flight attendants, on board.[1][9]

The pilot in command was 57-year-old Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, a former fighter pilot who had been an airline pilot since leaving the United States Air Force in 1980. At the time of the accident, Captain Sullenberger had logged a total of 19,663 flight hours, 4,765 of which were accumulated in A320 aircraft. He is also a safety expert and a glider pilot.[10][11][12] The first officer was Jeffrey B. Skiles, 49,[11][13][14] who was on the last leg of his first assignment in the Airbus A320 since passing the training course to fly the type.[15] Skiles had accrued 15,643 flight hours throughout his career.


N106US at LaGuardia operating the US Airways Shuttle in December 2001

The aircraft was an Airbus A320-214, registered N106US, powered by two GE Aviation/Snecma-designed CFM56-5B4/P turbofan engines.[16] One of 74 A320s then in service in the US Airways fleet,[17] it was built by Airbus with final assembly at its facility at Aéroport de Toulouse-Blagnac in France in June 1999. Delivered to the carrier on August 2, 1999, the airliner was registered to Wells Fargo Bank Northwest, NA, as owner/lessor[18] with AIG listed as the lead insurer.[19]

The aircraft's FAA-required maintenance records,[20] released by US Airways the day after the accident, showed that when N106US was written off, its airframe had logged 16,299 cycles (flights) totaling 25,241.08 flight hours. Total time on the engines was 19,182 hours on the left (#1) and 26,466 hours on the right (#2). The last A Check, a maintenance check performed every 550 flight hours, was passed on December 6, 2008, and the last C Check (annual comprehensive inspection) on April 19, 2008.[16][21]

The Airbus A320 is a digital fly-by-wire aircraft: the flight control surfaces are moved by electrical and hydraulic actuators controlled by a digital computer. The computer interprets pilot commands via input from a side-stick, making adjustments on its own to keep the plane stable and on course, which is particularly useful after engine failure by allowing the pilots to concentrate on engine restart and landing planning.[22]

The mechanical energy of the two engines is the primary source of routine electrical power and hydraulic pressure for the aircraft flight control systems.[23] The aircraft also has an auxiliary power unit (APU), which can provide backup electrical power for the aircraft, including its electrically powered hydraulic pumps; and a ram air turbine (RAT), a type of wind turbine that can be deployed into the airstream to provide backup hydraulic pressure and electrical power at certain speeds.[23] Both the APU and the RAT were operating as the plane descended onto the Hudson River, although it was not clear whether the RAT had been deployed manually or automatically.[23]

Ditching button (the central square orange area) on the overhead panel of an Airbus A330.

The Airbus A320 has a "ditching" button that closes valves and openings underneath the aircraft, including the pressurization outflow valve, the ram air inlet, the avionics ventilation inlet and extract valves, and the pack flow control valves. It is meant to slow flooding in a water landing.[24] The flight crew did not activate the "ditch switch" during the incident.[25] Sullenberger later noted that it probably would not have been effective anyway, since the force of the water impact tore holes in the plane's fuselage much larger than the openings sealed by the switch.[15] He also noted that the impact could have been less violent but software in the plane, designed to prevent pitching up and down, had prevented him from manually getting maximum lift during the four seconds before water impact.[26]

Flight and landing

Takeoff and bird strike

New York TRACON audio
Air traffic control audio from about impact until ditching (3:10 long)

Problems playing this file? See media help.

First Officer Skiles was at the controls when the flight took off to the northeast from Runway 4 at 3:25 pm. Two minutes later, at an altitude of about 2,700 feet (820 m),[3] he noticed an approaching formation of birds. These were Canada geese, and they struck the plane at 3:27:11, when it was at an altitude of 2,818 feet (859 m) and about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north-northwest of the airport. The windshield view was quickly filled with large, dark, brown birds,[27][28] and the crew heard several loud thuds. Both engines immediately shut down. Captain Sullenberger took the controls, while Skiles began going through the emergency-procedures checklist to try to restart the engines.[2] The aircraft then slowed but continued to climb, until 3:27:30, when it reached an altitude of about 3,060 feet (930 m), at an airspeed of about 185 knots (343 km/h; 213 mph). The aircraft then began descending and accelerating, reaching an airspeed of 210 knots (390 km/h; 240 mph) at 3:28:10 at an altitude of about 1,650 feet (500 m).

At 3:27:36, using the call sign "Cactus 1539 [sic]",[29] the flight radioed air traffic controllers at New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON)[30] "Hit birds. We've lost thrust on both engines. We're turning back towards LaGuardia." Passengers and cabin crew later reported hearing "very loud bangs" in both engines and seeing flaming exhaust, then silence from the engines and smelling the odor of unburned fuel in the cabin.[31][32][33] Responding to the captain's report of a bird strike, controller Patrick Harten, who was working the departure position,[34] told LaGuardia tower to hold all waiting departures on the ground, and gave Flight 1549 a heading to return to LaGuardia and told Sullenberger that he could land to the southeast on Runway 13.[30] Sullenberger responded that he was unable to do so.[30]

The aircraft headed approximately north after takeoff, then wheeled anti-clockwise to follow the Hudson southwards
Flight path flown (red). Alternative trajectories to Teterboro (blue) and back toward La Guardia (purple) were simulated for the investigation.

Sullenberger asked if they could attempt an emergency landing in New Jersey, mentioning Teterboro Airport (TEB) in Bergen County as a possibility;[25][30][35] air traffic controllers quickly contacted Teterboro and gained permission for a landing on Runway 1.[35] However, Sullenberger told controllers that "We can't do it", and "We're gonna be in the Hudson", signaling his intention to bring the plane down on the Hudson River because he was too low to glide to any airport.[25] Air traffic control at LaGuardia reported seeing the aircraft pass less than 900 feet (270 m) above the George Washington Bridge.[36] About 90 seconds before touchdown, the captain announced, "brace for impact",[36] and the flight attendants instructed the passengers how to do so.[37]


The plane ended its six-minute flight at 3:31 pm with an unpowered ditching while heading south at about 130 knots (150 mph; 240 km/h) in the middle of the North River section of the Hudson River, a tidal estuary in that area. The ditching location, approximately 40°46′10″N 74°00′17″W / 40.769498°N 74.004636°W / 40.769498; -74.004636,[38] is roughly abeam West 50th Street (near the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum) in Manhattan and Port Imperial in Weehawken, New Jersey. Sullenberger said in an interview on CBS television that his training prompted him to choose a ditching location near operating boats so as to maximize the chance of rescue. The location was near three boat terminals: two used by ferry operator NY Waterway on either side of the Hudson River and a third used by tour boat operator Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises.[8][39]

Two of the flight attendants compared the ditching to a "hard landing" with "one impact, no bounce, then a gradual deceleration."[25] After coming to a stop in the river, the plane drifted southward with the ebb tide current.[40] National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Board Member Kitty Higgins, the principal spokesperson for the on-scene investigation, said at a press conference the day after the accident that it "has to go down [as] the most successful ditching in aviation history."[7] "These people knew what they were supposed to do and they did it and as a result, no lives were lost."[41]


Coast Guard video (8:07) of the crash and rescue; splashdown is at 3:31:02 pm

Immediately after the A320 had been ditched in mid-river, Sullenberger opened the cockpit door and gave the "evacuate" order, and the aircrew began evacuating the 150 passengers, both onto the wings through the four mid-cabin emergency window exits and into an inflatable slide that doubles as a life raft, deployed from the front right passenger door (the front left slide failed to operate as intended), while the partially submerged and slowly sinking airliner drifted downriver with the current. Two flight attendants were in the front, one in the rear. Each flight attendant in the front opened a door, which was also armed to activate a slide/raft, although the port side raft did not immediately deploy; a manual inflation handle was pulled. A panicking passenger opened one rear door, causing the A320 to fill more rapidly with water. A flight attendant in the rear attempted to reseal the door, but failed to do so.[42] The impact with the water had ripped open a hole in the underside of the airplane and twisted the fuselage, causing cargo doors to pop open and fill the plane with water from the rear.[43] The flight attendant urged passengers to move forward by climbing over seats to escape the rising water within the cabin. One passenger was in a wheelchair.[44][45]

Sullenberger twice walked the length of the cabin to confirm that no one remained inside after the plane had been evacuated.[39][46][47] One of the passengers, Dave Sanderson, had assisted in evacuating the craft, only to discover upon reaching the exterior that the wings were swamped with passengers waiting to be picked up by the rescue boats. Seeing no other alternative, Sanderson jumped into the freezing river and swam to the nearest boat.[48]

Evacuees, some wearing life-vests, waited for rescue on the partially submerged slides knee-deep in frigid river water. Others stood on the wings or, fearing an explosion, swam away from the plane.[42] Air temperature at the time was about 20 °F (−7 °C), and the water was 36 °F (2 °C) (32 °F (0 °C) surface temperature).[25][49]


Video from 20 minutes after ditching, with numerous ferries and rescue boats surrounding the aircraft
The sunken plane in the Hudson River surrounded by Coast Guard, FDNY, NYPD, and ferryboats. Only the plane's vertical stabilizer is visible above water.

Local commercial vessels from the NY Waterway and Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises fleets responded almost immediately to the emergency. NY Waterway ferry Thomas Jefferson, commanded by Captain Vincent Lombardi, was first on the scene, arriving at the side of the plane just four minutes after the ditching. NY Waterway ferry Governor Thomas H. Kean, under the command of 20-year-old Captain Brittany Catanzaro,[50] was the second rescue craft to arrive, reaching the plane a few minutes later.[51] Catanzaro reported to radio station WNYC that she and her crew used a Jason's cradle to facilitate people climbing onto the ferry. Sullenberger stated in CBS News interviews that he advised the ferry crew to rescue passengers on the wing before the passengers in the inflatable slides, as the inflatable slides provided a higher level of safety. A time-stamped video from a United States Coast Guard (USCG) surveillance camera shows that the first of these vessels, a ferry boat, reached the plane at 3:35 pm (four minutes after the ditching) and began rescuing the 155 occupants. By this time many passengers were already standing on the wings or in the inflated slides.[47] The slides eventually detached from the fuselage to form life rafts.[36] At one point, as the plane moved in the strong ebb tide current, passengers on one of the slides, fearing that the stern of the ferry boat would crush them, had to shout to the ferry boat pilot to steer away.[52]

Within minutes,[53] vessels from the New York City Fire and Police Departments (FDNY and NYPD), the USCG,[54] and a privately owned former Coast Guard Buoy Tender were on scene to help with the rescue and recovery effort.[55] All of the passengers and crew were rescued safely.[36]

The FDNY sent four marine units and rescue divers.[56] The first Fire Chief on scene, from Battalion 9, transmitted a "10-60" (Major Emergency Response) which confirms a major emergency and requires a complex response assignment of various fire department personnel, fire companies, special units, and additional department resources. FDNY Emergency Medical Dispatch assigned emergency units and personnel, mobilized their Major Emergency Response Vehicle and Logistical Support Units, and had 35 ambulances ready for patients coming off the flight.[57][58] About 140 FDNY firefighters responded to docks near the crash.[56] The NYPD sent squad cars, helicopters, vessels, and rescue divers from the Aviation Unit and Harbor Unit.

In addition, about 30 other ambulances were made available by other organizations, including several hospital-based ambulances (St. Vincent, St. Barnabas). Numerous agencies also provided medical help on the Weehawken side of the river, where most passengers were taken.[59] Two mutual aid helicopters responded to the West 30th Street Heliport, one from the Nassau County Police and another from the New Jersey State Police.[60] New York Water Taxi sent boats to the scene but did not take part in the rescue.[61]


There were five serious injuries,[2] one of which was a deep laceration in flight attendant Doreen Welsh's leg.[25][62] In total, 78 people were treated, mostly for minor injuries[63] and hypothermia.[64]

Hospitals that treated patients included Saint Vincent's Catholic Medical Center in Greenwich Village; St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, which admitted ten people; New York Downtown Hospital, which treated three passengers; and Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, New Jersey, which treated five patients for hypothermia.[65] In all, 24 passengers and two rescue personnel were treated at hospitals,[66] while others were cared for in triage facilities.[36] According to the airline, no pets were being transported in the cargo hold, with a spokesperson stating, "We don't carry pets in our cargo."[67] Only two passengers were required to stay overnight in a hospital. One of them, Dave Sanderson, was transported to Palisade Medical Center, and treated for hypothermia. It took hospital staff hours to return his temperature to normal. Because jet fuel seeped into his eyes, he now wears glasses.[48]

Delayed psychological effects were experienced as a result of the accident and rescue. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress including sleeplessness, flashbacks, and panic attacks were reported by members of the aircrew, passengers, and others directly involved. A number of the survivors received professional counseling, and some began an email support group to help ease the aftereffects of the experience.[68] In addition to those on the plane, FAA Air Traffic Control Specialist Patrick Harten, the New York TRACON controller who worked the flight during the emergency, later stated in testimony before Congress that for him "the hardest, most traumatic part of the entire event was when it was over" during which he was continually "gripped by raw moments of shock and grief."[69]


Immediate aftermath

The downed A320 tied up alongside Battery Park City
The plane being recovered from the Hudson River during the night of January 17

At 4:57 pm fire crews began to stand down. At 5:07 pm Doug Parker, CEO of US Airways, issued an official statement during a press conference in Tempe, Arizona, in which he confirmed that the flight had been involved in an accident.[70]

Flight crew members, particularly Captain Sullenberger, were widely praised for their actions during the incident, notably by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Governor David Paterson, who opined, "We had a Miracle on 34th Street. I believe now we have had a Miracle on the Hudson."[63][71][72] Outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush said he was "inspired by the skill and heroism of the flight crew", and he also praised the emergency responders and volunteers.[73] Then President-elect Barack Obama said that everyone was proud of Sullenberger's "heroic and graceful job in landing the damaged aircraft", and thanked the A320's crew, whom he invited to attend his inauguration as President in Washington, D.C., five days later. He also invited those who had helped ensure the safety of all 155 people aboard.[74][75]

Following the rescue, the Airbus A320 remained afloat, though partially submerged, and was immediately moored to a pier near the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan, roughly 4 miles (6 km) downstream from where it had ditched.[37] The left engine had detached from the aircraft during the ditching and was recovered several days later from the river bottom, 65 feet (20 m) below the surface.[76] The water was so murky that the right engine was initially thought to have also detached, but it was later found to be still in place on the aircraft (with much of its nacelle missing).[77] On January 17, the aircraft was removed from the Hudson River and placed on a barge.[78][79] The aircraft was then moved to New Jersey for examination.[80]

The method used to recover the submerged airframe from the water rendered it uneconomical to repair and it was written off.[81] The rear pressure bulkhead was also damaged in the accident, and the salvage contractor, Weeks Marine, cut off the wings and empennage.


The fuselage being towed to a salvage facility
Feather found in left (#1) engine

Shortly after the event, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokeswoman Laura Brown said that the plane "may have flown into a flock of birds."[82] A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Go Team (typically comprising specialists in fields relating to the incident), led by Senior Air Safety Investigator Robert Benzon, was dispatched to New York.[83] The preliminary report of the incident, published on January 16, states that the aircraft went down following a bird strike.[84] This conclusion, and the simultaneous loss of thrust in both engines, was confirmed by preliminary analysis of the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, both of which were recovered by the NTSB when the aircraft was lifted out of the river on January 18.[41]

The next day, reports surfaced that the same airplane and same flight had experienced a similar but less severe compressor stall on January 13. During that flight, passengers were told they might have to make an emergency landing.[85][86] However, the affected engine was restarted and the flight continued to Charlotte. The NTSB later reported that this engine surge had been caused by a faulty temperature sensor, which was replaced, and that the engine was undamaged by the event, which allowed the plane to return to service.[87]

On January 21, the NTSB noted that organic debris, including a single feather, as well as evidence of soft-body damage, was found in the right engine.[88][89] The left engine was recovered from the river on January 23 and, like the right engine, was missing a large portion of its housing.[90] On initial examination the NTSB reported that while missing obvious organic matter, it too had evidence of soft body impact, and "had dents on both the spinner and inlet lip of the engine cowling. Five booster inlet guide vanes are fractured and eight outlet guide vanes are missing." Both engines were sent to the manufacturer's facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, for teardown and examination.[91] On January 31, the plane was moved to a secure storage facility in Kearny, New Jersey, for the remainder of the investigation. The NTSB confirmed that bird remains had been found in both engines.[87][92] The bird debris was later identified, through DNA testing, as the remains of Canada geese, the typical weights of which are well above the limits of impact for which the engines were designed.[87]

On February 5, the FAA released audio tape recordings and transcripts of its internal and broadcast ATC communications relating to the accident. The entire exchange between Flight 1549 and air traffic control relating to the emergency lasted less than two minutes.

The A320 had been assembled by the Airbus Division of the European aerospace consortium EADS, at the Airbus headquarters manufacturing facilities in Toulouse, France; therefore, under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13,[93] both the European Aviation Safety Agency (the European counterpart of the FAA) and the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (the French counterpart of the NTSB) became active participants in the accident investigation, with technical assistance provided by Airbus Industrie and GE Aviation/Snecma as manufacturers of the airframe and engines, respectively.[94][95]

The NTSB ran a series of tests using Airbus simulators in France, to see if Flight 1549 could have returned safely to their choice of LaGuardia Airport (LGA), either runway 13 or 22, or Teterboro Airport (TEB) runway 19. The test pilots were fully briefed on the series of events and maneuvers. The test pilots were able to return successfully to either airport in only eight of 15 attempts, although four out of four attempts to reach the closest LaGuardia runway were successful.[96] The NTSB report noted that these test conditions were unrealistic: "The immediate turn made by the pilots during the simulations did not reflect or account for real-world considerations..." A single follow-up simulation was conducted where the pilot was delayed by 35 seconds: He crashed trying to return to LGA runway 22.[97]

Flight 1549 was the fifth take-off/departure phase accident at LaGuardia resulting in the write off of an airframe for a commercial air carrier since the field opened in 1939.[98] Of those, it was the third involving the hull loss of a US Airways/USAir plane.[99][100]

Sullenberger testified in hearings before the National Transportation Safety Board, in which his actions during Flight 1549 were investigated amid arguments that he might have been able to return the plane to LaGuardia Airport rather than ditch it in the Hudson River. Sullenberger maintained that there was no time to execute the maneuver needed to return the plane to the airport, which would have killed all persons on the plane and more on the ground. The NTSB ultimately ruled that Sullenberger made the correct decision in ditching the plane.[101] The NTSB panel's reasoning was that the dual-engine failure checklist for the Airbus A320 addresses power loss at higher altitude, when pilots have more time to deal with the situation, and that while simulations showed that Flight 1549 could barely have made it back to LaGuardia, those scenarios would have required Sullenberger to make an immediate decision with little or no time to assess the situation.[102][103]

The NTSB concluded its investigation on May 4, 2010. It determined the probable cause of the accident to be "the ingestion of large birds into each engine, which resulted in an almost total loss of thrust in both engines".[97] The final report credited the accident outcome to four factors. First, the decision making by the crew (including the decision to immediately turn on the APU), and the decision to ditch in the Hudson. Second, the fortuitous use of an aircraft that was certified for extended over water flight (EOW) even though this certification was not mandated for the flight. Third, the performance of flight crew during the evacuation. Fourth, the immediate response by emergency responders. Contributing factors were the good visibility and fast response from the various ferry operators.[104] The final report was published on May 28, 2010.[2]

Real-time video and first-person accounts

Unless they happen at a major airport, most airline incidents generally occur without any real-time video or photographic record of the event. However, the circumstance of Flight 1549's river ditching in a heavily populated metropolitan area during daylight hours (and in this case, the beginning of a major city's evening rush hour) was an exception,[105] with video of the accident captured and recorded by multiple nearby closed circuit television surveillance camera systems. That, along with the survival of all 155 passengers and crew virtually uninjured, made possible the relatively rapid production and broadcast of multiple television reports and documentaries containing both extensive real time video of the actual ditching and rescue, and extensive recorded first person accounts by the aircrew, passengers, rescuers, and other key participants. Included among those broadcast accounts were:

Long-term effects

The passengers on the aircraft each received a letter of apology, $5,000 in compensation for lost baggage, or $5,000 more if passengers can demonstrate more than $5,000 in losses, and a refund of the ticket price.[116][117] From May 2009, passengers received their baggage and other belongings. In addition, passengers reported they were offered $10,000 each not to sue US Airways for damages by American International Group (AIG), the airline's insurance carrier.[118]

To prevent similar incidents, workers from the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the city's Parks and Recreation Department and Environmental Protection Departments descended on 17 locations across New York capturing and gassing 1,235 Canada geese in June and July 2009.[119] The Agriculture Department undertook another goose control measure by coating 1,739 eggs with corn oil, which kills developing goslings by depriving them of air.[119]

N106US on display at Carolinas Aviation Museum

On January 21, 2010, it was announced that the plane involved in the crash would be auctioned off "as-is where-is." The engines were not included in the auction, and it was noted that the fuselage had major water and impact damage.[120] The damaged airframe was acquired by the Carolinas Historic Aviation Commission for display at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. The fuselage was placed on display in the same configuration as it was when it was pulled out of the Hudson River in January 2009, rather than being restored.[121]

The Carolinas Aviation Museum held a reception on June 11 to commemorate the final "arrival" of Flight 1549 to Charlotte with Captain Sullenberger as keynote speaker. The 150 passengers from the flight were invited to the event.[122][123] By the end of 2012 both wings had been added to the display.[124][125]


The Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators awarded the entire flight crew of Flight 1549 a Master's Medal on January 22, 2009. The medal is awarded only rarely, for outstanding aviation achievements at the discretion of the Master of the Guild.[6] The citation for the award is:

The reactions of all members of the crew, the split second decision making and the handling of this emergency and evacuation was 'text book' and an example to us all. To have safely executed this emergency ditching and evacuation, with the loss of no lives, is a heroic and unique aviation achievement. It deserves the immediate recognition that has today been given by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.

The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, presented the Keys to the City to the crew of Flight 1549. He also gave Sullenberger a replacement copy of a library book lost on the flight, Just Culture: Balancing Safety and Accountability, by Sidney Dekker.[126] The civilian and uniformed rescuers received Certificates of Honor.[127]

The five crew members of Flight 1549 were given a standing ovation prior to the start of Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009.[128] Capt. Sullenberger threw out the first pitch of the 2009 Major League Baseball season for the San Francisco Giants. His Giants' jersey was inscribed with the name "Sully" and the number 155 – a reference to the 155 people aboard the plane.[129]

On July 28, passengers Dave Sanderson and Barry Leonard organized a thank you luncheon for emergency responders from Hudson County, New Jersey, on the shores of Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, New Jersey, less than a mile north of where the plane made its landing, and where 57 of the passengers had been brought following their rescue. Present at the luncheon were members from the U.S. Coast Guard, North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue, NY Waterway Ferries, the American Red Cross, Weehawken Volunteer First Aid, the Weehawken Police Department, West New York E.M.S., North Bergen E.M.S., the Hudson County Office of Emergency Management, the New Jersey E.M.S. Task Force, the Guttenberg Police Department, McCabe Ambulance, the Harrison Police Department, and doctors and nurses who treated survivors for hypothermia and other injuries following the incident.[130][131]

Capt. Sullenberger was named Grand Marshal for the 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

In August 2010, Jeppesen issued an approach plate titled "Hudson Miracle APCH", dedicated to the five crew of Flight 1549 and annotated "Presented with Pride and Gratitude from your friends at Jeppesen".[132]

Sullenberger retired on March 3, 2010, after 30 years service with US Airways and its predecessor. His final flight was US Airways Flight Number 1167 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was reunited with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles and a half dozen of the passengers on Flight 1549.[133]

In popular media

The Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic TV series Mayday (also called Air Crash Investigation or Air Emergency) dramatized the accident in an episode titled Hudson Splash Down.[134] It was also recreated in a National Geographic Channel TV special titled "Miracle Landing On The Hudson".[135] It was additionally recreated in the UK for a Channel 5 special in 2011.[136]

Garrison Keillor honored the entire flight crew by writing a song and performing it on his show, A Prairie Home Companion.[137]

Flight 1549's ditching is referenced in the song "A Real Hero" by College and Electric Youth, best known from the 2011 movie Drive. The lyrics of the second verse describe the water landing and the survival of all 155 passengers and crew from the sinking vehicle, as well as an allusion to the freezing river.[138]

The landing is referenced in "The Unbrave One", the January 8, 2012 episode of the television show American Dad!. In the episode, Captain Sullenberger is invited to a hero's brunch by Stan. He arrives by landing a small aircraft in the pool.[139]

Sullenberger is repeatedly referenced in the 2011 feature film romantic comedy Friends with Benefits. Throughout the film, Justin Timberlake's character repeatedly suggests to people he meets aboard planes that modern airplanes practically fly themselves, and that Sullenberger's feat is less impressive than it is portrayed to be, only to encounter incredulity and hostility for this idea. In addition, Mila Kunis' character is seen reading Sullenberger's English Wikipedia article.[140][141][142]

Sullenberger's memoir, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters was adapted into the 2016 feature film Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood,[143] with Tom Hanks as Sullenberger and Aaron Eckhart as co-pilot Jeff Skiles.[144] It was released on September 9, 2016.

See also


  1. A serious injury is defined as any injury that (1) requires hospitalization for more than 48 hours, starting within seven days from the date that the injury was received; (2) results in a fracture of any bone, except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or the nose; (3) causes severe hemorrhages or nerve, muscle, or tendon damage; (4) involves any internal organ; or (5) involves second- or third-degree burns or any burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface. A minor injury is defined as any injury that does not qualify as a fatal or serious injury. 49 CFR 830.2
  2. Flight 1549 was not the first successful ditching of an airliner. In 1956, Pan Am Flight 6 ditched in the Pacific Ocean with no lives lost after the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser lost two of its four engines.


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