January 17, 2009

People are still talking about...

...the Miracle on the Hudson, or how Chesley B. Sullenburger III, the pilot of the US Airways flight which suffered two bird strikes that knocked out the plane's engines, expertly guided his plane to a safe water landing in the Hudson River yesterday afternoon (New York time).

(Photo by Janis Krums, a California businessman who was on one of the ferries which came to the rescue of the passengers of US Airways flight. Click here for the full shot.)

I read about it last night as the news started coming off the wire, and I could only marvel at how that huge piece of machinery was still relatively intact even after landing in the water. Apparently, Capt. Sullenberger, "Sully" to his friends, was a former fighter pilot, and runs his own safety consulting firm.

He also chairs the safety committee of the ALPAP, an international organization of airline pilots. On top of that, Capt. Sullenberger also owns a glider, which is probably why he was able to land that Airbus A320 so smoothly. Passengers of that flight said Capt. Sullenberger, walked the aisle of the plane twice to make sure no one was left behind, before leaving the aircraft for safety. He and his co-pilot also gave their shirts off their back to passengers who were shivering because of the cold water from the river. In all, 155 passengers were saved, with only one suffering a broken leg, and the rest mild hypothermia. What a guy!

What was even more amazing is that only a few minutes into the water, the plane was almost immediately surrounded by ferries – the ones which carry passengers back and forth from New Jersey to New York and vice versa – their crew and passengers even helping the US Airways flight passengers to safety and into the boats. One of the ferry captains interviewed on Good Morning America said the timing couldn't have been better...most ferry captains and crew were just beginning to assemble at their respective docks in preparation for rush hour, as office workers in New York would be going home to New Jersey. So the moment everyone saw the plane going down, all ferry operators went into action. Wow!

(Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberg III photo from the Safety Reliability Methods Inc.)

You can't help but marvel at how heroic Capt. Sullenberger and his co-pilot were, landing their plane like that, and how the ferry operators, U.S. Coast Guard, NY Fire Dept. and NY Police Dept. could work so fast together on an emergency such as that. There's something about Americans that always makes me in awe of them...how they are always ready to volunteer to help others, unmindful of the danger to their own selves. They immediately spring into action, no matter what the occasion. It is one of those character traits that we Filipinos could learn to emulate.

No media outfit has yet been able to interview Capt. Sullenberger. He looks like a man who doesn't want any fuss and would probably say, he was just doing his job. To him we raise a glass of wine and say "Cheers" for a great job.

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