USA1549 down but not out

That’s almost as far as it got.

From Twitter search:

From FlightAware:


US Airways flight #1549 (an Airbus A320) from New York, NY (LGA) to Charlotte, NC (CLT) crashed into the Hudson River today (January 15, 2009) around 3:30pm EST, less than six minutes after takeoff. The maximum altitude was 3200 feet before the aircraft began a descent into the water.

Plane appears intact. Helicopters and ferries responding. FAA is reporting all passengers are out of the plane, and a secondary search is underway.

Early unconfirmed reports are that the aircraft hit a flock of geese. CNN reports that a pilot of the airliner reported a bird strike to air traffic control after takeoff.


Related Links

  • FlightAware Discussion Forums: Airliner Down
  • If FlightAware calls the flight USA1549, that’s how I’m going to call and tag it.

    More as I can write about it, sitting here at a pharmacy in Cambridge. As of now, it appears that all passengers and crew got out alive. Amazing. Some great piloting there. And a sobering lesson in listening to pre-flight safety pitches.

    Reallhy helps that the plane stayed intact (from what we can see). Amazing job landing — actually, ditching — the thing. Wow.

    5pm, on FlightAware:

    USA logo
    USA1549 (web site) (all flights)
    US Airways
    Aircraft Airbus A320 (twin-jet) (A320/Q)
    Origin La Guardia (KLGA)
    Destination Charlotte/Douglas Intl (KCLT)
    Other flights between these airports
    Route BIGGY J75 GVE LYH SUDSY3 (Decode)
    Date Thursday, Jan 15, 2009
    Duration 1 hours 44 minutes
    11 minutes left
    1 hour 32 minutes
    Status En Route (No recent position)
    Scheduled Actual/Estimated
    Departure 03:04PM EST 03:26PM EST
    Arrival 04:38PM EST 05:10PM EST
    Speed 455 kts 153 kts
    Altitude 36000 feet descending 300 feet

    Want to get that down before it scrolls away.

    How long before video of the plane landing, shot from a ferry or shore, shows up on the tubes?

    From a FlightAware post, ship number 106 (N106US, Airbus A320-214, delivered August 2, 1999)

    Jumping in the subway now. More later.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


    1. Nicolas Ward’s avatar

      I had always mocked the little image of the “water landing” in the seatback safety guide, under the assumption that water is hard at high speeds and the plane would break up on impact. The early images I saw showing up in Twitter looked almost exactly like that though – the plane upright, floating on the water, with escape slides/rafts deployed. I guess that runway overruns into water at relatively low speed are much more likely given typical airport locations.

    2. Doc Searls’s avatar

      I’m guessing they were only at a few thousand feet when they lost power. That meant the pilot had to glide to a landing. From the look of the map, the pilot made a harder left than usual — losing momentum and altitude in the process, probably, and glided past the Bronx, most of Manhattan, and the GW bridge, while bringing it in for a ditch. Amazing work.

    3. Doc Searls’s avatar

      I’m wondering how 80 tons of metal can float like that.

    4. Andrew Leyden’s avatar

      I heard some commentator said the fuselage was intact underneath the plane which helped the plane float. Had there been a gash or something it would have gone down quicker.

      So Doc–given all your flying, does hearing about plane crashes make you worry about your own traveling?

    5. Andrew Leyden’s avatar


      Interesting tidbit here:

      “And there is credit for the French-based European Airbus firm for building a tough airliner. Among other things, unlike Boeings, the Airbus has an emergency “Ditch button”, which closes vents and makes the fuselage more watertight. Airbus pilots have always been sceptical about the button, on the overhead panel. Today, they are saying today “Oh, so that’s what it’s for.””

    6. Flush Garden’s avatar

      Ditch button, bitch button. That little button only closes the cabin pressurization outflow valves (I believe there is only one such valve on the A320) and it is NOT the reason why the plane floated for such a long time. It floated because the pilot did an amazing job keeping the airplane from breaking into pieces during the ditch landing. Even with all the valves wide open, the aircraft would have still floated long enough for all the people to easily escape.

      Back when jet fuel was far less than a dollar per gallon, aircraft manufacturers didn’t build their fuselages very air tight. The pressurization systems just used more bleed air from the engines and let a lot of pressurized and conditioned cabin air escape through numerous leaks in the fuselage. Once jet fuel became extremely pricey, the newer airliners were constructed with much more air tight seals — the result is less fuel consumption per passenger mile. The bad news is that while this might save your life in the unlikely event of a “skilled” emergency water landing, the newer jets retain more stale cabin air with a lot more bacteria and viruses floating around for everyone to breathe. Happy travels!

    7. Tom’s avatar

      Please, please get your facts right…

      The ditch button closes the outflow valve, emergency ram air inlet, avionics inlet, extract valve and flow control valve and cabin fans. This is to allow the aircraft to exceed aircraft buoyancy requirements in the event the aircraft remains intact after it has been ditched, so lives can be saved.

      The ditch button is available on all European Airbus A320 family, A340/A330 and A380 aircraft. European Airbus pilots undergo ditch scenarios to land the airbus successfully on water and parameters required to maximise the likelihood of keeping the plane intact. i.e. pitch angle, flaps, apporach speed. etc. In this situation the Captain got it right and the plane was left intact after it was ditched. The airbus design stood up to what it was designed to do, simple as that.

      Boeing, unfortunately, does not have such a facility. Hopefully they will see sense and follow the Europeans and install it in all their new aircraft.

      Well done Captain and well done Airbus.

      I worked for Airbus, France till two years ago when I was in Europe so I know a little bit about these things!

      I hope this helps to clear things.

    8. Doc Searls’s avatar


      I think you meant to append your comment to this post. I added a pointer there to your correction.

    9. Flush Garden’s avatar


      Excuuuuuse ME! I forgot about the little tiny dinky other inlets! Beat me with a shovel.

      Also, the word is “out” that a panic-crazed passenger cracked/opened a rear cabin door, letting thousands of gallons of water flow into the cabin during the emergency evac.

      Accordingly, the “ditch button” is more for mental masturbation than for anything real or useful.

      Fark you very much!

      Flush Garden

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