Ferry Boats Used In US Airways Rescue
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block. The governor of New York is calling it the miracle on the Hudson. All afternoon we've been following the story of a US Airways jet which landed in the Hudson River. All 155 people on board survived, although there are some injuries reported. The flight had just left LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte, North Carolina, when the pilot reported the plane had been struck by birds.
NPR's Robert Smith spent the afternoon and part of the evening out at the scene of the rescue efforts. He joins us now from our New York bureau. And Robert, what more can you tell us about what happened to this flight soon after it took off?
ROBERT SMITH: Well, it looks like it's a combination of luck and skill that saved all these people's lives. Let's start with the skill. I mean imagine this - this jet has taken off from LaGuardia. It's a minute into the flight, this is the most dangerous part of the flight. It's about 5,000 feet when this pilot reports that there's been a double bird strike - both engines hit by birds.
Now there's enough time that the pilot, we've heard, called in to to see if could make a landing at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. But as he's turning around, and at this point, he's over one of the most densely packed parts of the nation, New York City, he apparently can't make it to Teterboro and makes a landing in the Hudson River. And you notice I didn't say crash landing because from all indications, this man set down this plane, if not in a gentle way, at least a controlled way, and that was one of the things that helped save lives.
BLOCK: Yeah, one of the passengers on the plane is quoted as saying, "The impact wasn't a whole lot more than a rear-end collision." Robert, dramatic scenes today of rescue of the people on this plane as the plane was partly submerged in the water.
SMITH: Yes. And this is where the lucky part came in. I don't know if the pilot could have known this, but he managed to put down the plane right next to the ferry boat terminal in midtown Manhattan. And about five minutes after the plane landed in the water, it was surrounded by ferry boats, at least five of them, from New York Waterways, who were there to immediately rescue passengers.
And I talked to some of the captains there. They train for this every single month - pulling people out of the water. And when they arrived, they were taking people off the plane wings, off of a rescue raft that had come out of the plane, and there were a couple of people in the water. There were also some police divers, they had to go in the water and pull people out of the water. But despite all of that, very few injuries - some hypothermia, a couple of broken legs, but that's about it.
BLOCK: That's remarkable. And what more can you tell us about the pilot on this plane?
SMITH: Well, we're just learning about him now. He did not speak to the media, in fact, barely spoken to the mayor. He's saving his comments for federal investigators. The mayor said when he talked to him that the pilot was the last person off the plane, walked down the aisle twice to make sure that no one was left on that plane.
His name is Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, that's what we're hearing, from Danville, California. He's 58 years old. He's a 29-year employee of US Airways, and get this - he's a safety consultant. He has his own firm called Safety Reliability Methods. We talked to one safety expert who said, if I was on that airplane, I would want Sully on the flight deck in charge.
BLOCK: NPR's Robert Smith speaking with us from New York. Robert, thanks very much.
SMITH: You're welcome.