Yet Another Post on US Airways Crash in the Hudson

A320, Accidents/Incidents, US Airways

No, you didn’t miss my first post, but I’m sure you’ve seen about a million since the US Airways A320 plopped down into the Hudson River yesterday. So, I won’t bother to recap what happened, and I’m probably the only site that hasn’t posted pictures of the incident. Let me just say a couple of things.

  • Can we just think about what happened for a minute? Un-friggin-believable! A full A320 (nice loads for a midday, midweek trip in January, by the way) ditches into the ocean river, everyone lives, and the plane stays intact.

  • I keep hearing that bird strikes brought the plane down, but it’s way too early for us to know that. It sounds like there probably was a bird strike, but that doesn’t mean it was the cause for what happened. Let’s wait until the NTSB tells us more.

  • Everyone’s calling the pilots heroes, but I bet they’ll tell you they were just doing their jobs. Also, while the landing was truly amazing, we don’t know that the pilots didn’t contribute to the fact it had to ditch in the first place just yet. Again, let’s wait for the NTSB.

  • If I have to watch one more news teaser that says, “We have birds here in LA, see what LAX is doing to prevent them from flying into engines,” I’m gonna lose it.

  • What’s the chance this gets people to actually pay attention to the safety demo before the flights from now on? Nah.

  • US Airways really put out a lot of communication yesterday with what appears to be four updates, one being a briefing from CEO Doug Parker. That looks pretty good, but the ultimate test will be how the airline deals with the passengers that were onboard. I’m sure the ambulance-chasers are circling as we speak. Grrrr.

  • Wanna see something cool? Check out Passur’s AirportMonitor. Put in January 15, 2009 at 15:25 and watch the plane on radar as it takes off, curves around, and finally puts down in the river. Cool.

  • As a former America West guy, I first wondered if it was one of the “West” (former America West) planes, but it’s not. It was N106US, an “East” (former US Airways) plane which would have turned 10 years old this year.

  • I thought this was the first modern jet to have ditched into the water and maintained full structural integrity, but it doesn’t appear that way. Apparently a JAL DC-8 in 1968 ditched in San Francisco Bay and the plane actually returned to service! See more ditchings, some more successful than others.

  • Did you see how fast those ferries got to that airplane? In that freezing weather, that must have really saved some lives.

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39 comments on “Yet Another Post on US Airways Crash in the Hudson

  1. Either I’ve been asleep and missed it or there hasn’t been any YouTube footage of the thing actually going in to the drink. C’mon….one of the most densely populated sections of riverfront in the country and not one tourist with a camcorder along the Chelsea Piers?

  2. if you had video, would you

    (a) put it on YouTube
    (b) give it to the NTSB
    (c) sell it to CNN or whoever bids the most?

  3. I am curious if current FAA regulations would allow the plane to return to flight.

    I looked up the DC-8 that did a water landing out side of SFO:

    But I have some vague recollection that the FAA bans reusing parts from airliners that have had accidents, so I’d assume reusing a whole plane (no matter how repaired it is) would be against the rules.

    As far as paying attention to the safety briefings.. Ignoring them is the most disrespectful part of any flight. The flight attendants are giving you information on how to save your life, the least you could do is pay attention. Now, the least the airline could do is make it short, sweet, and to the point.

    Although I made a snicker about the instructions to open a seat belt, and an Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant told me that people in a panic have screwed it up. So I wonder why there aren’t other better designs for seatbelt clasps.

  4. Oh, another thing I find interesting is that the US Airways website pulled all advertising related images, they’re all just replaced with the logo, which I’d expect.

    Other airlines didn’t pull any advertising related images from their websites. I know that there is a tradition that all television advertising (and I’d assume news paper advertising) is pulled for a week or two after an airline crash out of respect, etc.

    I got an email from Frontier about a One Day sale.. Sure no one died on this, but are the competitive pressures such that this old custom has been disregarded?

  5. Nicholas – Yes, I wondered that as well. Maybe since there were no fatalities, they thought they didn’t need to pull back. Still quite tacky, I’d say.

  6. From:

    “Many people believe that if your aircraft crashes, you’re dead anyway. Wrong. Over 70% of airline accidents are survivable. 71% of people who die in survivable crashes, do so after the aircraft comes to a complete stop. In many cases its because they are unprepared for the crash.”

    Why isn’t something like this mentioned in the safety briefing. Sure the numbers should be left out, but something like “While incidents are unlikely, a majority are survivable, please take a few moment and provide us with your attention for important safety information.”

  7. Bird strikes are a major concern at every airport and can never be completely eliminated. Thankfully, the plane did not catch fire after the birds were ingested into the engine. It had to be a flock of birds, because if one engine was lost the airplane will still be able to climb and fly safely back around to land.

  8. I’m guessing the US pulled the graphics because they were getting slammed by people hitting the site for updates and it was slowing down the whole site. If so, it had nothing to do with “being respectful”.

  9. I work in advertising and often handle media buys from airlines. (Or their buyers.) On almost all instructions are notes to pull spots immediately in the event of a major accident or incident. It usually doesn’t specify “loss of life” – so events like these become at our discretion unless we here directly from the buyer.

    I got my Frontier email too. I think email based offers are set in advance, (but could be pulled,) but they’re a lot less visible than radio/TV ads.

    different topic:

    Its great this pilot is being praised, but another column I read pointed out there are TWO pilots. (captain and FO,) and proper CRM (cockpit resource mgnt) dictates decision making and between both captain and first officer, even if Captain has final say. So the second guy deserves from press time and kudos as well.


    And yeah, hell of a story.

  10. If I had video footage I’d have gone straight to the NTSB. I wouldn’t have known from my vantage point at the time of filming if any or all had survived or perished unless I stayed with the scene to see people emerging.

    Others seeking a buck from tragedy, I’m sure, have and will continue to find the highest bidder for their bills and 15 minutes with Oprah. I’m not one of those.

    I’m saying I’m surprised that, however obtained, live footage of the ditching hasn’t gone in to heavy rotation on CNN by now.

  11. I remember the SFO “water landing” by JAL. No one knew they were not on the runway.. SURPRISE: wet feet!

    I also wonder if they had closed the doors after leaving if the plane could have gotten less waterlogged. They seem to have had plenty of time.

    I wonder why the pilot did not make Teterboro? It likes it was a bit further than where they actually landed.

    From Passeur, it looks like a near miss mid-air collision. I sure the other plane was at altitude.

  12. Skinny: For all of the geography nerds out there, at that particular point, the Hudson is not technically a river anymore, rather, it is an estuary.

    CF: From what I hear from eyewitness reports, the pilot executed a perfect ditching, keeping the nose up and setting the tail into the water to act as a brake. Yes, the NTSB report will be interesting, and if I may be so bold, the technique used hopefully will be studied over time and put into place to save more lives in the future.

    What a great start to 2009 this is.

  13. What about the flight attendants. Can anybody give them praise? Lets see…

    Air France YYZ ….all pax got out
    CO in DIA………….all pax got out
    Now US in LGA

    YES by all means praise the PilotS, but flight attendants are the dumb coffee pouring princesses. Wake up they know what they are doing!

  14. > Everyone’s calling the pilots heroes, but I bet they’ll
    > tell you they were just doing their jobs.

    You bet! And if I hear one more uninformed talking head use the term “miracle” to describe the water landing and evacuation, I think I’ll … well, you know. No, it’s not a miracle, it’s an event for which pilots and flight attendants train. Period. No hyperbole.

  15. Well it’s not quite intact. Both engines are apparently missing and at the bottom of the Hudson.

  16. it amazes me how fast the word was out on this… i heard on twitter and facebook before i saw it on the news. we have become a nation of reporters! it is nice to see the digital lifestyle including more than just updating one’s profile with what’s playing on the radio or who you saw on the train.

  17. Its at times like these that I again question the intelligence behind some airline’s decisions to cut out life jackets from their emergency equipment to save weight on the airplane. Many of these airlines will argue that the seat cushions float or that they do not fly over water for extended periods of time. But the reality of the situation is that holding on to a seat cushion in cold water may be difficult, especially after the onset of hypothermia. And there is no arguing that, had the ferries not been around, a lot of the passengers may have ended up swimming for a short time while other boats arrived. As for not flying over water for long periods of time… I think Flight 1549 definitely proved this isn’t a requirement for safety water equipment. Sure, many planes have ditched and left no survivors, but there is always a chance that something like yesterday happens and it’s at those times that you don´t want to see 150 people die just because it saved you a little fuel.

  18. FM: As cold and heartless as it sounds I want the calculation to be made if life vests are worth it, and save money. Human life is not invaluable, and we could continue to make things safer and safer, and they will get more expensive.

    However I saw passengers wearing life vests after this crash, although people didn’t seem to be consistently wearing them, and I didn’t see many seat cushions.

  19. I went looking for flight 1549 on the schedule. It was canceled today (predictably) but I checked next week and I don’t even see another flight number in its place.

    Did they just remove this from the schedule, or am I inept at searching this properly?

  20. Nicholas: That is cold and heartless. Human life IS invaluable, and unless I miss your meaning you are asking that some cost – benefit analysis be done on carrying life-jackets vs. the amount of human life that will potentially be lost. Ford did that with the Pinto. They calculated the cost of recalling the car vs. the cost of litigation and settlements with victims. The car won, people died.

    If that is what you are advocating, shame on you. I hope you never find yourself or worse, find loved ones in a situation where some pencil pusher has removed a piece of life saving equipment because it was cost effective to do so. If I misinterpret, then please excuse me.

  21. NB: Most times flights are retired once an accident happens, kind of like hurricane names are retired once a major accident occurs.

    I do agree with the need for the calculation needing to be made as far as the life vests, however I would prefer airlines change out entertainment systems for newer seat back ones which save hundreds of pounds, before they consider the life vests, which come out to about 50-75lbs per plane. Eventually an airline in financial difficulty will have to take out the life vests when it can and thats just part of business and the way things have to be.

  22. “Most times flights are retired once an accident happens, kind of like hurricane names are retired once a major accident occurs.”

    was supposed to read:

    Most times flights are retired once an accident happens, kind of like hurricane names are retired once a major storm occurs.

  23. This is the third serious incident after take-off involving an A320 in as many months.

    The other two are:

    Nov 28: Air New Zealand A320 test flight crashed after take-off in France killing all 7 crew aboard. The cause has yet to be determined.

    Dec 14: Air France A321 had a double engine stall after take off. The engines were able to be re-started without further incident.

    It now appears that Airbus issued a Safety Directive earlier this month related to a possible engine stall issue. There is not much that has been reported about this or any possible connection with the US Air crash, but perhaps this is more credible than a bird strike with both engines?

  24. You guys just can’t be serious. FM, do you REALLY advocate that safety equipment be removed because an airline can’t afford it? Where does it stop? Should they remove slides? Oxygen? Flight attendants? How about that co-pilot? Do we really need him?

    If an airline cannot afford to protect the safety of the flying public, then it should go out of business.

  25. Steve – I’m guessing the pilots would have made Teterboro if they could, but they must not have been able to get there. I was also thinking about that other plane – can you imagine taking a nice tour of Manhattan and then staring down an A320 in the face?!? Wow.

    Mark – Agreed. Any ditching that keeps the plane intact is incredible and should be studied over and over. I honestly didn’t think this was even really possible.

    cj – Just like the pilots, the flight attendants appear to have done their jobs well. For the number of times you hear flight attendants say that they’re here “primarily for our safety,” I’m glad to see that they’re following through nicely.

    Doug Swalen – Eh, the engines don’t really count. Those aren’t a part of the aircraft in that they change them out on a regular basis. So, in my eyes, that fuselage is still in one piece.

    FM – Airlines will only put life vests on if required by the FAA. That’s what the govt is there for, regulatory purposes. So, if the FAA makes the determination that all aircraft need vests, then the airlines will obey. Of course, life vests wouldn’t have helped at all in this instance, but if someone splashed down in the middle of the Great Lakes, well that’s a different story. I imagine that this will cause the FAA to take a long look and decide what to do.

    Nicholas – The flight # would have been retired immediately, as FM says, and they may just not have gotten around to uploading the new flight number just yet. BTW, there are accidents like this one where nobody will remember the flight number and there are others that stick out forever (103, 232, and 800 may ring a bell). I was always surprised that the number 103 wasn’t permanently retired by all airlines, but United used to operate it from Chicago to LA when I was working there. Crazy.

  26. Cranky – I’d say the engine is as much an integral part of the plane as the stabilizers. Perhaps not as permanent as the wing root but definitely the core piece of equipment needed to power the plane in the first place.

    Peter – Do you know which engine manufacturer was involved in the three A320 incidents, including the US1549 yesterday? Is there a thread there?

    Cranky – You forgot one big retired flight number. 191. It has the unique history of being involved in two accidents with two different airlines: AA-191 at ORD and DL-191 at DFW. United, again, still uses that number (MCO-ORD) and I’m sure they’re not alone.

    Oh, and never forget 401, the Eastern L-1011 that went down in the Everglades.

  27. Mark, Yes I did say that.

    Re: “benefit analysis be done on carrying life-jackets vs. the amount of human life that will potentially be lost” The FAA has done this analysis, and they require different flotation devices depending on how many nautical miles from shore the plane is going to fly. There are three different standards that I know of, the minimum requiring just seat cushion flotation devices, the middle standard requiring life vests, and the maxumum requiring life vests and rafts.

    Air travel is the safest way to travel, and in some ways is a luxury. Lets consider automobile travel for a comparison. We could require that the safety standards of say-Volvos be included in all vehicles, and that every driver on the road be required to have the safety training and safety equipment of NASCAR drivers. The tradeoff would be that driving would become so expensive that very few people could do so, and the less economically well off would be unable to drive to their jobs, or would have to accept a job of less mobility which would ultimately reduce the quality of their life. That would be cold and heartless.

    The same analysis in accessability versus safety has been made in airline travel, and given the airline travel is the safest form of travel, I think we’re doing quite well.

  28. Mr. Barnard is not far off in federal driving standards. Such a system is in place in Germany, for one country. There are no mom&pop driving schools or “learning from Dad” situations. Everyone wanting to drive is required to take the ADAC course before getting behind the wheel. Regardless of stripe or background, every German citizen receives the exact same standardized training. Considering the autobahn, it’s nice to know most of the people on the roads know what to expect from their fellow drivers.

    Of course, Germany is also a country with extensive public transport such that not everyone, even the farthest suburbs of Munich, has to drive to get to work.

    There was a time when only 4-engine planes dared to cross the oceans. Then “3-holers” with the DC-10 and L-1011. The first ETOPS twin-engines were only given 120 minutes from land as their overwater limit. The airlines pushed for and got 180 minutes thru the arguements of advanced technology, engine reliability and, of course, fuel economy.

    All human life is precious, I agree. Looking at some of those neck-choking life vests the passengers had on, however, I don’t know if they could a 300-pound man above water for long!

  29. Gary – I was talking with some Lufthansa pilots one day. There is/was a tradition at that airline that, for the most part, the most junior pilots fly the long-haul intercontinental trips. The senior pilots like to stay closer to home – go out, do the day job, home in time for dinner. The young bucks with no families or have oats to sew roam the world at will.

    Fear not for seniority related safety at Lufthansa. The training they get is the envy of some air forces.

    That plus pay, of course. Jr. pilots earn more on longer flights. Sr. pilots who don’t necessarily need the money can earn what they need off the shuttle flights within Germany and quick hops to London.

    Some of that is probably true here in the US. The US pilot, I reason, has nothing to prove, loves his job, has a gig on the side and a family at home he’d like to spend time with.

  30. Optimist – I would disagree, but I think the point is that the aircraft remained intact here from a passenger perspective. I’m not going to get further into semantics.

    BTW, the US Airways and Air France aircraft had CFM engines but the Air New Zealand bird had IAE engines.

    Gary – Good question. I’m hearing that he was Charlotte-based, so I would think the last place you’d want to fly is congested NYC. But maybe it was a tiny piece of a much longer, better trip or maybe he traded with a friend.

    And for those who are interested, we have our first video:

  31. Optimist – Well why don’t we split the difference? Now that they pulled the plane out of the water, they found that the #2 (right) engine was still attached. One outta two ain’t bad!

    Peter – It will be very interesting to follow the progress of all of these investigations. Thanks for forwarding.

  32. Sulley, despite the seniority and experience, was probably on a narrowbody A320, the minibus as they are called by pilots, for one of two reasons. First, USAirways doesn’t have that many widebodies, 10 767-200’s, and 9 A330-300’s. This means he would be very senior flying domestic and far more junior flying international. Second is probably a lifestyle choice. Being more senior domestic, he got to pick and choose his flights rather than being on reserve internationally or at the bottom of the pile. He still has 7 more years left in his career if he retires at 65, a big if given all his options at the moment. He has a business on the side and two young daughters, so he probably wants to stick closer to home and have more time with for those two priorities. While bigger jets have bigger pay and more glamorous routes, pilots have many reasons why they wouldn’t try to transition to the biggest planes as soon as they could.

  33. Hey, lets not jump on the “When we can’t figure out what happened, lets just blame the pilots” bandwagon. Your #3 comment sounded a lot like that. The NTSB has to blame someone and the because its a government agency there is now way they would ever blame the FAA, the airport, themselves, or ATC. So when all else fails, blame the pilots. Lame.

  34. Adam – I’m not sure how you jumped to that conclusion from my third point. I haven’t blamed the pilots for anything here. I simply suggest waiting to see what happened. There’s no question that the pilots did a fantastic job of landing the plane and they certainly deserve praise for that, but we still don’t know what led up to the landing, and we won’t know until the final NTSB report is issued. The point is, we should wait to see what actually happened.

    I also have to strongly disagree with your assumption that the NTSB will blame the pilots becasue they would never blame anyone else. That’s an incredibly absurd statement. There is no love lost between the NTSB and the FAA nor any other entity. The NTSB does a very good job of getting to the bottom of things and if that involves blaming the FAA, it will certainly happen. You should give the NTSB some credit.

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