This US Flight Landed On The Hudson River!

This US Flight Landed On The Hudson River!

Imagine you’re flying out of New York City when suddenly, the aircraft loses all power right after takeoff. That’s exactly what happened on January 15, 2009. The US Airways Flight 1549, piloted by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, struck a flock of Canada geese. The flight soon lost its engine power and the captain only had a few options and very little time to save all lives. 

The flight’s pilot “Sully,” had to make the most difficult and bold decision to land the plane on the Hudson River. Remarkably, all 155 people on board survived. Sully was the last man to get off the plane and he was under waist-deep water. As the brave captain, he waited until every single one of his passengers was rescued before himself to safety. Let’s have a look at the details of this “Miracle on the Hudson.” 

Unexpected Bird Strike

The flight was scheduled to head from LaGuardia Airport in New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then on to Seattle, Washington. It took off from the airport at 3:25 PM. The flight encountered a flock of Canada geese about three minutes later. The birds caused both engines to fail, leading to immediate technical challenges. 

Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles quickly realized that returning to LaGuardia or reaching another airport was too risky. Sullenberger’s radio transmission was urgent: “… this is Cactus fifteen thirty-nine [sic], hit birds. We’ve lost thrust on both engines. We’re turning back towards LaGuardia.” Yet soon, they decided on a river landing.

Image source: Flyive

The Miracle Landing on the Hudson

Captain Sullenberger, an experienced pilot with a background in safety consulting and glider flying, teamed up with Skiles to take the skies. The National Transportation Safety Board later called the heroic flight, “the most successful ditching in aviation history.” 

They landed the aircraft in the Hudson River, just off Midtown Manhattan, only a few miles from LaGuardia. The Hudson River, not particularly deep at that section, provided a surprisingly effective emergency runway. Sullenberger noted, “We’re gonna be in the Hudson,” a decision made with only minutes to spare.

Immediate Aftermath and Rescue Efforts

As the plane floated on the cold waters of the Hudson, nearby boats, including ferries and Coast Guard vessels, quickly joined on the scene. The crew efficiently evacuated passengers, despite challenges like water entering the fuselage.

Remarkably, while the temperatures were freezing, there were no fatalities, and injuries were minor. First responders and various agencies worked together seamlessly, showcasing outstanding coordination.

US Flight Landed On The Hudson River
Image Source: New York Daily News
Image source: CNN / Am New York

Long-Term Impact and Recognition

The crew received numerous honors, including the Master’s Medal from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. In response to the incident, measures were taken to manage bird populations around New York City airports to prevent future strikes. 

The aircraft itself now resides in the Carolinas Aviation Museum, serving as a testament to the event’s historical and cultural significance.

Sully Sullenberger: The Brave Captain

Captain “Sully” Sullenberger had over 40 years of flying experience. His skills demonstrated remarkable composure during the crisis. Sully later described the incident as a test of his lifetime of experience. 

Sully stated, “I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education, and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.” His actions not only saved lives but also highlighted the importance of experience and calm under pressure.

US Flight Landed On The Hudson River
Image source: New York Daily News / People (Captain Sully)

Media and Public Perception

The event captured the public imagination and media attention. It was adapted into the movie “Sully,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks. The story was also featured in various documentaries and books, capturing the harrowing moments of the flight and the miraculous landing that followed.


The incident of Flight 1549 is a reminder of the unexpected challenges of air travel. It highlights the importance of experience and quick thinking in the face of sudden, life-threatening challenges. Captain Sullenberger’s legacy, the safe landing of Flight 1549, and the lessons learned continue to inspire and educate. 

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