Did you hear about the plane that ditched in the Hudson River yesterday? Just kidding. The media is on this one non-stop. And so is the ‘Net. “The pilot’s a hero”, “No, he was just doing his job”. Back and forth, back and forth.
Over at Fark, there’s a long thread about the pilot, Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III. One posting really sums things up:
Sully did a superb job. It’s hard to think of a worse place to lose all your engines. Mountainous terrain at night is bad, but all you will kill on the ground is a moose. NYC? There is no place to go that isn’t going to take out a whole bunch of people.
But to put this in perspective, picture the worst test you took in college. Make it 10 multiple choice questions. Now put the teacher in front of you with a shotgun pointed at your head, who says "you have 180 seconds to get all 10 questions right, and if you get any wrong, any of them, I *will* blow your head clean off, right then. now … go."
Flying pilot is flying. Non flying pilot is grabbing checklists, scanning instruments, shutting off beeps and voices etc. Passengers are starting to scream. No real idea what happened (they almost certainly did not see the birds) and you can’t see the engines from the cockpit.
Speed is bleeding off rapidly. Lower the nose. You have to figure out what of maybe 5 or 6 different scenarios that could have made the symptoms you are seeing (compressor stall? some sort of fuel failure? bad pumps, contaminated fuel? funky french computer programming? bird strike? maybe a real honest to god shoe bomber?).
While you are flying and your buddy is pushing buttons, reading checklists and scanning gauges, your choices are changing. The right answer, which you don’t know yet, is changing because your position and altitude are changing. Turn towards westchester? Stewart? Teterboro? The river? Picture taking that multiple choice test in which you have 180 seconds to get 10 questions right, but the questions themselves change every 5 seconds. Can we even do an air restart at this altitude and airspeed?
Plus, as your non-flying checklist reading compatriot is struggling, you have to start concluding you aren’t getting the engines restarted. Which now is a whole different mindset. Look for something, anything to land on that isn’t a huge building or a bridge. Tell your non-flying buddy to start thinking water landing – a whole different set of checklists. Tell the cabin crew. start shutting stuff off. Oh yeah, has anyone told the controller anything yet? Watch the airspeed, no stalls here. Squawk 7700? Maybe say I love you to your wife and kids, who will at least get to hear you in the voice recorder?
Buddy, whats best glide for this weight, look it up right now. Whats the suggested configuration for a water landing, flaps what 10?, 0 what? What does the wind look like near the surface of the river, we don’t want to hit in a crab, or you get that whole flipping over breaking up thing.
Sh*t there’s a bridge. Stretch the glide just a tad. Christ there’s a lot of sh*t in NYC. Please, mr. ferry boat captain, look up.
Keep it stone cold level. Actually use those rudder pedals for once. Hey, it was good working with you.
Jesus H. Christ we are still alive.
The entire flight crew of US Airways 1549 is to be commended. The passengers are to be commended. The ferry captains and emergency responders are to be commended.