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Birdstrike in the Hudson
January 15, 2009 1:56 PM   Subscribe

US Airways Flight 1549 has crashed into the Hudson. Fortunately, it appears that everyone has survived. The culprit appears to be a bird strike from a flock of geese (as opposed to a single bird, which airplane engines are built to withstand).

Not surprisingly, there has been some serious research effort into bird strikes and how they affect airline safety. (The Bird Strike Society has been established to advocate for greater public awareness.)
posted by kdar (169 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
ah poop. missed the front page.
posted by kdar at 1:57 PM on January 15, 2009


I vote for this one.
posted by dirty lies at 1:57 PM on January 15, 2009


Me too! Let's keep this one up.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:59 PM on January 15, 2009


Yeah, this one's much better.

My husband is on a business trip today, and when he landed he called to tell me "I'm not on the plane that crashed!" OK, thanks honey. I think I would have been more befuddled that he was flying out of New York when we live in Chicago.
posted by desjardins at 2:00 PM on January 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


The really impressive thing is that a reference to today's crash made it onto the Wikipedia page for "bird strike" within an hour of it happening.
posted by neroli at 2:00 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is the keeper.
posted by cortex at 2:00 PM on January 15, 2009


Yes, the previous one needs more bird strike.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:02 PM on January 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Glad to get another answer to my first AskMe post from 4 years ago about flotation devices.
posted by ALongDecember at 2:02 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The FAA is partnering with academics to figure out new ways to deter birds from airports.
posted by kdar at 2:03 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


In the Hylaean Theoric World, the other post wins.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 2:06 PM on January 15, 2009 [18 favorites]


Just seen this on the UK news. Is this the first time that a large passenger jet has successfully landed on water?
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:06 PM on January 15, 2009


It sounds like the crew did a phenomenal job.
posted by pointystick at 2:06 PM on January 15, 2009


US Airways:

Thaw the birds first.
posted by ErWenn at 2:06 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Again, "Details are sketchy, but we believe the bird killed in the crash was named Harold Meeker."
posted by yhbc at 2:06 PM on January 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


Here is a good picture of people standing on the wings of the aircraft right after the crash landing, before any rescue craft had arrived.

Also, the relevant Twitter feeds are #usair, #usaircrash, #flight1549 and #1549
posted by thewittyname at 2:06 PM on January 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


This has been a weird day. I was following this in real time on the other side of the Hudson after checking my local blog to see what the source of the sirens was. It's amazing that (as far as is currently known) everyone made it out relatively unscathed. Great emergency response by the rescue teams and the ferries.
posted by stagewhisper at 2:07 PM on January 15, 2009


Surely someone has video of the plane flying low and landing in the water. That's the picture I want to see. Glad everyone is safe (but freezing!).
posted by mattbucher at 2:07 PM on January 15, 2009


So will anyone hold the pilot to account for brutally murdering these geese?
posted by Djinh at 2:08 PM on January 15, 2009


Good on the pilot for doing such a wonderful job.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:09 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Glad to see the passengers are all safe. US Scareways, as my dad likes to call them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:09 PM on January 15, 2009


Some more pictures.
posted by thewittyname at 2:10 PM on January 15, 2009


FlightAware on the flight.
posted by nitsuj at 2:10 PM on January 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Are we sure it wasn't caused by a flock of seagulls?
posted by fixedgear at 2:10 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I ran...
posted by ColdChef at 2:12 PM on January 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


One more reason to hate geese. Maybe the FAA and its academics can share their secrets because the dogs, loud noises and oiled eggs aren't enough.
posted by tommasz at 2:12 PM on January 15, 2009


These incidents often happen when a greater white-fronted goose dares a lesser white-fronted goose to see how closely they can fly to a plane. Those poor lesser white-fronted geese are always trying to prove themselves and end up causing all sorts of mayhem, to the laughter of the greater white-fronted geese. Tragic.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:13 PM on January 15, 2009


So will anyone hold the pilot to account for brutally murdering these geese?

Geese are pure evil. How do you think the force feeding method of producing foie gras was invented? Revenge. Revenge for all of the evils geese have inflicted on this world, such as ankle biting and flapping their wings at passersby. EVIL.
posted by stavrogin at 2:13 PM on January 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


It is damn, damn impressive that there has not been a fatality in a US commercial airline crash in more than two years, and before that the last fatality in a big, "real" airliner was in 2001. If anyone out there works in aircraft maintenance, thanks.

Since nobody seems to have died:

Would it have been a birdspare if one goose had missed the engines but then gone *splud* on the tail fin?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:16 PM on January 15, 2009 [14 favorites]


Airports might want to hire these people to prevent bird strikes.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2009


Djinh : So will anyone hold the pilot to account for brutally murdering these geese?

A better question would be if anyone has figured out a way of holding them responsible for taking down an aircraft. That's some terrorist shit right there.

We may have to infiltrate their flocks to see if they are planning any future attacks. Quick, someone enlist the help of a patriotic duck with a willingness to act as an inside fowl.
posted by quin at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


What kind of birds are flocking in NYC in January? I'm interested in what the NTSB has to say.
posted by ben242 at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2009


Hey whats up. I am actually a graduate student in the lab referenced in one of the links above. We do a lot of research into conservation and bird-wildlife interactions, and birdstrikes rank heavily on that list. My thesis was going to be on habitat-level effects on birdstrikes, using 20 years of FAA data, but the bureaucracy got too tangled up and I had to switch.

Some interesting facts on birdstrikes not being mentioned in the news so far (citations available upon request):

- The first recorded birdstrike happened in 1908 to Orville Wright, no more than a few months after the first powered planeflights.

- Birdstrikes cost the international aviation industry over $1.2 billion annually, and these costs are often handed down to taxpayers and airline customers.

- Since 1988, over 200 people have died and 186 planes have been destroyed as a result of collisions with wildlife.

- Birdstrikes happen frequently, to all sizes of aircraft, and the risk of life threatening strikes has been increasing in the last two decades due to:
- More aircraft movements per year in increasingly crowded airports
- Many commerical airlines are replacing 3- and 4-engined aircraft with 2-engined planes
- Which results in less redundancy in the event of a multiple-strike taking out both engines (as we have seen here today)
- Newer engines are quieter, and possibly harder for birds to avoid in time
- Many species of birds have increased population in the last two decades, including geese, gulls, pigeons, and some raptors. All of these species pose major risks to aircraft, since they are large, travel in flocks, or both.

Airports already do many things to scare birds away from the runways, but once a plane takes off, it's on its own. My lab has worked with a company (http://preciseflight.com/) that is experimenting with lights to attach to aircraft that scare birds away while the planes are in the air. There have been some tests with these lights on planes in Australia, and so far they appear to be effective.

As taxpayers and airline customers, it is the public's job to let the airlines and their political representatives know they are aware of the threat birdstrikes pose, and encourage them to put serious consideration into new methods of reducing the risk of strikes.
posted by CTORourke at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2009 [87 favorites]


FlightAware on the flight.

Heh. They show it as a 6 minute flight, departing LGA at 3:26 and arriving LGA at 3:32.

The graphic flight path thingy ends in the middle of the Hudson.
posted by Perplexity at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2009


Funny I think this flight was jinxed because of all the recent reports of no US fatalities on commercial flights...
posted by Gungho at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2009


Wait, a plane crashed and everyone lived? Seems miraculous but I'm sure it wasn't...was it...could it be?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Very glad everyone (human) is okay. The report JUST came out that it's been more than two years since there’s been a major airline fatality, which of course had me nervous that it would happen shortly thereafter. (Sort of like mentioning a no-hitter.)

Because there was no (human) death or serious injury:

Birds Fly
(with apologies to Master J. Flansburgh)

Birds fly into my engine
Planes fall from the sky
I hope they refund the sixty-five bucks
It cost to check these bags.

Planes fall, into the Hudson
And fish swim under my feet
This discount fare which I booked online
Should now be transferable

And the FAA, just cannot say
How to keep the birds away
Yes my tiny seat is a special treat
At least I am not in the sea…
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:27 PM on January 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


JERRY: What'd she do?

KRAMER: I don't know! But I woke up in the Hudson river in a SACK!!
posted by swift at 2:28 PM on January 15, 2009


Having just flown out of New York this week, Holy crap. I'm glad it seems everyone is okay. I want to know details - what the crew said, what it sounded like - I hope one of those people has an online presence and writes a lot about what happened and the experience of it. And good god my hands froze just walking around outside the airport. Being in the water must have been cold as I don't know what, but probably the sweetest chill of being alive that one could imagine. That picture reminds me of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. It's got that foggy surrealness and I can just hear the passengers hopefully humming out "Walll-ker....Walll-ker" standing on the submerged wing of the plane.
posted by cashman at 2:31 PM on January 15, 2009


Glad to see there's no need for sots in this thread.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:31 PM on January 15, 2009


There's ALWAYS need for sots. In this or any other thread.
posted by yhbc at 2:35 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man that Wiki article on Bird Strike is like watching Faces of Animal Death.
posted by resurrexit at 2:35 PM on January 15, 2009


I love that FlightAware entry:

Duration: 6 minutes
Status: Arrived over an hour ago.

It sounds like they lost both engines at once from a flock of birds, rather than just one side, so they were at low altitude, relatively low airspeed, and had no power. Turning it around and safely ditching in the river saved a lot of lives. And it did, indeed, include their own.
posted by Malor at 2:35 PM on January 15, 2009


and yahoo assures us "no indication of a link to terrorism". they must not be canadian geese ;)
posted by supermedusa at 2:35 PM on January 15, 2009


Photos are beginning to be uploaded to flickr.
posted by stagewhisper at 2:35 PM on January 15, 2009


Just seen this on the UK news. Is this the first time that a large passenger jet has successfully landed on water?

Didn't something like this happen off the coast of Africa at some point?
posted by greatgefilte at 2:35 PM on January 15, 2009


See, when you spend all day making jokes about how fat Yoda's mom is, you miss things like this.
posted by hifiparasol at 2:39 PM on January 15, 2009


This is why you don't allow liquid on board planes.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:41 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Strike? It's more like getting two consecutive hole-in-ones!

Great bunch of facts, CTORourke, thanks. Like many modern aircraft, the A320 is powered by turbofan engines, which are quieter and more fuel efficient but tend to have a much wider intake cross-section. That must have some impact on the birdstrike statistics.

I made a flight up the hudson a couple weeks ago, in my 2-seat prop plane. It's fun, but there is always lurking in the back of my mind what a crummy place NYC would be for an engine failure. For most of the flight, you have no options but the drink. The Intrepid's deck would be perfect, but it's cluttered up with planes.
posted by maniabug at 2:44 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry about this. My dad's been going a bit nutty after his quest to find the Holy Grail faltered. He spends a lot of time running about the river bank, flashing his umbrella at birds.

He used to flash his other 'umbrella,' but thankfully his new meds have put a stop to that.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:45 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did they get to use the inflatable slide? My morbid side has always wanted to try that thing out.
posted by emd3737 at 2:47 PM on January 15, 2009


President Bush still has five days to declare the Global War on Bird Strikes.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:48 PM on January 15, 2009


It's not "bird strike." It's engine suck!
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:49 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I fly US Airways all the time from LGA to Charlotte when I go to visit my family in NC. I'm a very nervous flyer (I keep a rosary in my hand during the entire flight despite not being particularly religious) and I can't imagine living through something like this and always having that memory.
posted by firevoice at 2:50 PM on January 15, 2009


I've always laughed at the Stewardesses when they get to the "In an unlikely event of a water landing..." part of their pre-flight spiel, figuring that a water landing = we're all gonna die. I laugh no more. From now on, I will carefully note the position of my flotation device. And I send out a mighty huzzah to the flight crew who pulled this thing off. Heroes!
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:50 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


This Boing Boing post from yesterday about how safe we are in airplanes certainly seems to have an air of jinx about it. I wonder when the author's going to update.
posted by fungible at 2:52 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


fuck, I used to live right at 37th&9th and my apartment was facing the hudson, I probably could have watched that from my old bedroom window. or did cbs just show me a wrong map?

if the position is accurate it's also really close to where the liberty helicopter ditched not long ago.

(as opposed to a single bird, which airplane engines are built to withstand)

the kalitta 747 in brussles was apparently brought down by a single bird, which caused the pilot to put it back down onto the runway post V2 speed (=no chance of stopping before he'd run out of runway). this is the result.

not all engines are alike but those on a 747 are pretty big. not all birds are alike either.
posted by krautland at 2:52 PM on January 15, 2009


The movie will be called "Hudson Hawk Down"
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:53 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, My post was short and sweet!
(I was actually surprised that none had posted when I opened Metafilter).
Next time I'll add an extra dose of birds.
posted by dov3 at 2:53 PM on January 15, 2009


So, uh... They just gonna leave the plane at the bottom of the river?

I mean, I guess so -- it's not like they can re-use it, right?
posted by hifiparasol at 2:55 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whoa, a friend of mine witnessed it from his office at work. (Two shots on Flickr)
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:56 PM on January 15, 2009


They just gonna leave the plane at the bottom of the river?


It's been towed to the Battery.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:57 PM on January 15, 2009


Thanks mania, and yes I'm sure the greater air intake of turbo-fan engines has an effect. Part of my research would have been high-level statistics on the FAA database, and I'm sure that would have been an interesting variable to account for.

Also, lol at landing on the Intrepid. ;)

As a civilian pilot, you are not required to report birdstrikes, but I highly encourage you to do so. There is a website-submittal form, even, to make it simplier for pilots: http://wildlife.pr.erau.edu/strikeform/birdstrikeform.php If you don't know the species of the bird, there are kits the Smithsonian puts out where you can take blood/feather samples and they will identify it. More information that research can be found here: http://www.mnh.si.edu/highlight/feathers/

On a slightly more speculative tangent, birdstrikes are one reason some people are skeptical about the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I do not know if it's composite-material construction has been tested against the stress of birdstrikes. Many birdstrikes already happen that aren't even noticed, if they hit the nose or wings and bounce off leaving no trace. Such unaccounted stress on the composite-materials of this new plane worries me greatly. But again, this is just speculation, and there is no data to confirm either way.
posted by CTORourke at 3:00 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


A better question would be if anyone has figured out a way of holding them responsible for taking down an aircraft. That's some terrorist shit right there.

They're freedom fighters, not terrorists. It's those land-dwelling humans that have invaded their skies after all. If God intended us to fly, he would have given us wings and all that.
posted by Djinh at 3:03 PM on January 15, 2009


This Boing Boing post from yesterday about how safe we are in airplanes certainly seems to have an air of jinx about it. I wonder when the author's going to update.

So THAT's where I read that! I was racking my brain. The jinxitude is pretty remarkable here.
posted by brundlefly at 3:04 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The really impressive thing is that a reference to today's crash made it onto the Wikipedia page for "bird strike" within an hour of it happening.

Ditto the water landings page.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:07 PM on January 15, 2009


I'm a flight attendant, and my friends and I have been fielding calls about this since it happened, and we don't even work for US Air. Our families hear plane crash and the calls just pour in, everytime, even if the crash took place in Romania. I'm glad everyone is safe. The pilots did an *awesome* job, landing that plane with both engines out and such a low altitude.

That said, I've always hoped that if I crash it's not due to some fucking birds. There's something relatively poetic about the machine just breaking, or even tragic pilot error...but geese?!

I can just see myself on the phone with the pilots going "You have got to be fucking kidding me."

Did they get to use the inflatable slide? My morbid side has always wanted to try that thing out.

It's as awesome as it looks.

posted by jnaps at 3:08 PM on January 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


Glad it looks like everyone aside from the geese walked away. Pictures of the plane in the water with people standing on the wings are...strange.

Also strange that we now live in a world where I expect there to be flickr and wikipedia entries within no greater than 30 minutes of a major event occurring.
posted by lord_wolf at 3:12 PM on January 15, 2009


Amazing story and an amazing pilot!

Here is a pre-landing photo of the plane.
posted by JBennett at 3:16 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is probably going to be a stupid question, but why don't they put a robust cone shaped grill (say, 1cm spacing) in front of the intake on the engines? I imagine it wouldn't help much with high speed relative bird impact, but it should be possible to make it strong enough to stop the entire bird being sucked into the turbofan near takeoff or landing - they manage to make the cockpit glass and wing edges strong enough in most cases, after all.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:16 PM on January 15, 2009


Didn't something like this happen off the coast of Africa at some point?

Off the Comoros. It was not really a "successful" water landing; the plane rolled and tore itself apart, and most of the passengers were killed.

The wikipedia page for "water landing" lists several successful ones.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:22 PM on January 15, 2009


This is probably going to be a stupid question, but why don't they put a robust cone shaped grill (say, 1cm spacing) in front of the intake on the engines? I imagine it wouldn't help much with high speed relative bird impact, but it should be possible to make it strong enough to stop the entire bird being sucked into the turbofan near takeoff or landing - they manage to make the cockpit glass and wing edges strong enough in most cases, after all.

Well the problem with that is that it impedes airflow, and the engine needs air to work. The faster it's running, the more air it needs. And even small birds can cause major damage. A major threat to planes is starlings, little city birds about the size of your hand, that travel in huge flocks. They could get sucked through a grill or engine cover. I have also seen photos of a destroyed engine that was due to a HUMMINGBIRD. No joke, it destroyed half the blades in the engine.

And they dont make the wing edges and glass cockpit strong enough: Wing damage, Cockpit damage, more cockpit damage on a helicopter. The gallery of photos goes on and on :/
posted by CTORourke at 3:25 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


greatgefilte, you're thinking of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961. It was not nearly as successful as this one, in that 125 of 175 folks on board died. They didn't hit the water very levelly, as you can see. They came in fast and the plane rolled and shattered as it hit the water. This Hudson landing is nothing short of amazing. Amazingly done by the pilot.
posted by barnacles at 3:25 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


approximate flight path
posted by nitsuj at 3:28 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Round up those goddamn geese and see if a spell in Gitmo will change their mind about fucking up our air travel. Avian terrorists!
posted by zardoz at 3:34 PM on January 15, 2009




- Many commerical airlines are replacing 3- and 4-engined aircraft with 2-engined planes
- Which results in less redundancy in the event of a multiple-strike taking out both engines (as we have seen here today)


Not really. A Trijet or 4 engined aircraft losing two engines at takeoff to birdstrikes is going to fall out of the sky as well. Takeoff is the worst time to lose an engine -- you're at the maximum weight you're going to be at, fighting for airspeed and altitude.

Worse, a four engine plane that loses two engines on one side can't steer. The stated goal of all these planes was engine-out capability at any time, not multiple engines out at any time. Later in the flight, when most of the fuel is burned off, you might handle a multiple engine out on four engine plane -- but only if you lose one engine on each side. A Trijet like the DC-10 or L-1100 that loses two engines isn't staying airborne very long.

This is probably going to be a stupid question, but why don't they put a robust cone shaped grill (say, 1cm spacing) in front of the intake on the engines?

Because if you hit it at speed, you're going to, at best, suck sliced birds into the engine. Plus, you're choking the engine, which means much less power.
posted by eriko at 3:37 PM on January 15, 2009




Engines aren't designed to survive bird-strikes, so much as to be able to be shut down safely after the bird warps/breaks a couple of fan blades on impact and knocks everything off balance, destroying the rest of the engine. The largest bird they are designed to ingest without risk of catastrophic failure is eight pounds. An adult Canada Goose can be twice as heavy as that.
posted by cardboard at 3:40 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


From CTORourke:
Birdstrikes cost the international aviation industry over $1.2 billion annually, and these costs are often handed down to taxpayers and airline customers.

Where else would the money come from? Magic?
posted by ODiV at 3:42 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I saw the headline about the crash earlier and didn't want to read the article, because I thought everyone died. I'm so glad to be wrong. Those pilots should get anything and everything they want for free, forever. Just amazing.
posted by killy willy at 3:46 PM on January 15, 2009


I fly down the Hudson corridor all the time, and it's probably the safest place to land in that area if you really need to put it down. There's not a whole lot of open space otherwise, and it's very wide and relatively straight.

That said, here's my "bird strike" story:

I was working the desk at the local airport one summer when a starling got into the office. We had wraparound plate glass windows, so it got very confused and couldn't find its way out. I chased it around with a broom to try to hustle it towards the entrance when customers started coming in, so I handed the broom off to the chief flight instructor.

He chases the bird until it crashes into a window and stuns itself. He then proceeds to beat the bird to death with the broom, pick it up, and throw it in the garbage outside.

His reason? "They're pests. They're always building nests under the engine cowlings." Holy shit.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:51 PM on January 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


A question for the aviation enthusiasts here: Is there anything salvageable from that plane now, or is it all junk?
posted by maxwelton at 4:01 PM on January 15, 2009


Forget the crash, save those people from the Hudson!
posted by bwg at 4:02 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


CTORourke, I was at the Everett Boeing plant several months ago, and saw a composite tail fin in the bird strike test machine. With a big hole in the leading edge. But it did appear to my relatively untrained eye that it hadn't lost structural integrity.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 4:03 PM on January 15, 2009


Well, the pilot's business is aptly named.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:09 PM on January 15, 2009


Mei's sandal:

That's pretty cool, I believe you. I'm not a structural engineer, just an ornithologist. I've just heard that while the metal traditionally used in planes can bend on impact, this new material might have a higher propensity to shatter.
posted by CTORourke at 4:10 PM on January 15, 2009


Those pilots really earned thier pensions.

My brother-in-law is a pilot for Delta. He got his training in the Air Force as a fighter pilot. These guys are a different breed of human. They can stay calm and functional under extreme physical and emotional stress (it is the only way he can remain a member of our family). Never play poker or chicken with a pilot.

I bet you a bunch of those survivors just handed in their 2 weeks notice. The universe doesn't gift you an obvious second chance very often.
posted by tkchrist at 4:11 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


That pilot is no joke, hats off.

New York rescue workers don't fuck around folks, I'm rarely serious about anything, but a bunch of people did a good job of work today and I admire them.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:13 PM on January 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ferry workers too, big up to the Circle Line.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:15 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thank god everyone is OK so I can sit back and enjoy this plane crash.
posted by zzazazz at 4:29 PM on January 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


All hail airline pilots.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 4:35 PM on January 15, 2009


The fact that there's thousands of flights a day and that incidents are so rare is really a testament to the professionalism of most mechanics, air crew, and aviation engineers. And even when something does go wrong, the crew usually goes above and beyond.
posted by crapmatic at 4:45 PM on January 15, 2009


Our office looks out over Battery park so we had the odd sensation of seeing the normal, sedate ferry and water taxi traffic just turn west and motor for the crash. Those Coast Guard boats just fly though, the Intarwebs say 60mph+, compared to the various ferries' ~30mph they might as well be at ludicrous speed.

None of the news websites had any info, we found out via twitter, IRC (thanks cortex!) and CNN's live stream.

Major props to the pilot for not only sticking the ditch but being the last one out. That's class.
posted by Skorgu at 4:48 PM on January 15, 2009


People have forgotten that the presence of flight attendants on aeroplanes is required precisley because of the potential for type of incident. The airlines decided to market the idea of them being glorified waitresses and waiters, but they are actually safety personnel.

Yes the pilots did a great job as did the rescuers and also the passengers, who were calm and orderly; an absolute must for a safe emergency evacuation. But the flight atttendants truly came through when needed. Next time you fly, remember their real purpose, and try to treat them like the professionals they are, if you don't already do so.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:59 PM on January 15, 2009 [15 favorites]


Dealbook is reporting that executives from Bank of America (which has its headquarters in Charlotte) and Wells Fargo were on board.

And they let them get off, too?
posted by Dipsomaniac at 5:01 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


First the market crashes, then their plane. Stay away from those guys.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:11 PM on January 15, 2009


Can I be a little creepy? For some weird reason, ss soon as the news TV at work said all the people were safe, I wondered if any dogs or cats or iguanas were in cages in the hold, and if they had been taken out..
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:24 PM on January 15, 2009


since nobody got hurt (except the geese.. poor geese) i feel okay about posting this:

Birds don't fly through the engines,
Geese don't go through the grille,
It took a whole lot of airspeed,
just to get up that hill.

Now we're up in the big blue,
Gettin' ou- *SPLAT* *SPLAT* *SPLAT*,
Well, as long as we live, it's you and me baby,
I sure hope we come down flat.

Well we're goin' on down, (goin' on down) on the west side!
In a powerless contraption in the sky!
Goin' on down, (goin' on down) on the west side!
Bet they'll send us home on standbyyy!

too soon?

seriously, i'm really happy this turned out okay. kudos to everyone who kept their wits.

posted by sergeant sandwich at 5:25 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I find it interesting that GWB's presidency really started with a plane crash that was a huge disaster. Obama's is about to start with a plane crash that was handled with overwhelming competence. Not a direct parallel but I'm still going to take it as a good omen.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 5:30 PM on January 15, 2009 [14 favorites]


Why didn't the plane sink? It looks like it's just floating around doing the doggie paddle.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:33 PM on January 15, 2009


Oh *thanks*, Lesser Shrew--this was a great thread about how wonderful the pilots (and flight attendants!) are and how awesome it is that everyone lived... now I'm going to be thinking about that all night.

goes to find a cat to hug
posted by tzikeh at 5:43 PM on January 15, 2009


> Why didn't the plane sink?

Hope.
posted by ardgedee at 5:44 PM on January 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Just recently, in Denver, we had a similar disaster with all surviving. Again, thanks to flight attendants and passengers for calmness in the face of imminent disaster.
posted by kozad at 5:45 PM on January 15, 2009


Hope.

And, of course, hope floats.
posted by GuyZero at 5:48 PM on January 15, 2009


Man, what is it with North Carolina from La Guardia?
Glad everybody's okay.
I've gotten a bit freaked out everytime I've landed at that airport, it seems like it's "water, water, water...where's the runway, water, where's the runway, water, WHERE'S THE FUCKING RUNWAY?" and then you're touching down.
posted by chococat at 6:01 PM on January 15, 2009


And the last wiseass out the door onto the wing clapped his hands and yelled, "All right people, start paddling!"
posted by steef at 6:12 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


FROG STRIKE
posted by Rhaomi at 6:13 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Snarge! What a great word to come out of such a scary situation.
posted by droplet at 6:37 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everyone must have actually been listening to the safety video on that flight. I'm just glad that some people on board realized that the nearest exit may have been behind them.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:45 PM on January 15, 2009


Yeah, chococat, I'm reminded of that flight, too; from the article:
Of the 63 passengers aboard, two passengers (Betsy Brogan and her mother-in-law, Ayles Brogan, wife and mother of a USAir employee) were killed.
That'd be my aunt Ayles, and cousin Jim's wife Betsy. To add to the memories, on the way to the funeral, we got caught up in Hurricane Hugo.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:04 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


barnacles/greatgefilte, the reason the Ethiopian 767 ditching was disastrous was due to the fight taking place between the pilots and the hijackers.

Other useful datapoints:

Airliners.net discussion (part 2)

Airbus aircraft have a 'ditching' button which does the following:
The system sends a “close” signal to the:
  • Outflow valve
  • Emergency ram air inlet
  • Avionics ventilation inlet and extract valves
  • Pack flow control valves
  • Forward cargo isolation outlet valve (if installed)

    In other words, all exterior openings below the flotation line are closed.

  • Great photo of a DC-8 ditched in San Francisco bay, with passengers standing on the wing

    Wikipedia listing of major ditching incidents
    posted by joshwa at 7:05 PM on January 15, 2009


    Also amusing/macabre-- when searching google for "USAir Flight 5050", I saw this ad.
    posted by joshwa at 7:11 PM on January 15, 2009


    > Snarge!

    "Among Japanese aviation engineers and pilots, birds sucked into a jet engine are referred as yakitori after the popular dish. [citation needed]"
    posted by ardgedee at 7:29 PM on January 15, 2009


    Strike two for planes overshadowing the Bush presidency.

    Bush's farewell address and closure of his eight years as president is shoved to a one-liner sidestory on all major news websites.
    posted by amuseDetachment at 7:38 PM on January 15, 2009


    Consumerist has some information on what will probably happen to their luggage.
    posted by kdar at 7:40 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


    I just keep thinking about the fact that Captain Sully just pulled off a water landing. Right after that, after all the passengers were safely out of the cabin, he walked up and down the aisle twice as it was filling up with water, to make sure no one was left in there.

    That's seriously noble.
    posted by umbú at 8:03 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


    Sully's LinkedIn profile.
    posted by Mach5 at 8:26 PM on January 15, 2009


    I believe US Air leads the airline industry in charging only $5 for flotaton devices.
    posted by Fupped Duck at 8:28 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


    amuseDetachment: "Strike two for planes overshadowing the Bush presidency.

    Bush's farewell address and closure of his eight years as president is shoved to a one-liner sidestory on all major news websites.
    "

    Don't forget that spy plane that went down in China. Strike three!
    posted by Rhaomi at 8:57 PM on January 15, 2009


    What kind of birds are flocking in NYC in January?

    Suicide ganders.
    posted by chlorus at 8:59 PM on January 15, 2009


    Holy shit Mach5, that pilot's a Human Factors psychologist, who implemented Crew Resource Management for his airline, and speaks at High Reliability Organizations conferences!

    Coincidence or not, this guy is has spent the last half of his life studying how to develop work systems and practices to produce survival outcomes like this. Awesome. His public speaking career is made for life.

    Also, to give hope for schmucks like me studying this stuff in school, I found the only academic paper he ever published. The abstract reads:
    Pupillary size as an indicator of preference in humor.
    Journal of Perceptual and Motor Skills, December 1978.


    The effects of simple cartoons on pupil size were examined. Each of the 11 subjects was presented three cartoons for 10-sec. with a 5-sec. control period between the presentations. All subjects received the same task condition. When the presentation was complete, each subject ranked the three cartoons to show their preference on the dimension of humor. The data produced significant correlation between the rank order and the pupillary dilatation. Means of pupils size for the cartoons were also significantly different from control means.
    Just remember: Even if your research is lame, you still have a chance to amount to something.
    posted by anthill at 9:29 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


    Ugh I live alone except with my dog and work alone a lot of the time so these stories hit me hard. That captain is so fantastic checking twice for all the passengers and going out last; and all the ferry and tugbot captains going over to help. People in this country are so good to each other most of the time. Bwah. Honarabe him and kudos to the passengers. I hope my kids get to go to the "Sully" elementary school.
    posted by MarvinTheCat at 9:58 PM on January 15, 2009


    What -- no cell phone video yet?
    posted by dhartung at 10:52 PM on January 15, 2009


    The first recorded birdstrike happened in 1908 to Orville Wright, no more than a few months after the first powered planeflights.

    "I just flew in from 100 feet away, and boy, is my face sore!"
    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:48 PM on January 15, 2009


    Do you think it helped that the pilot is a certified glider pilot?
    posted by Duug at 2:27 AM on January 16, 2009


    The effects of simple cartoons on pupil size were examined.

    So the Voigt Kampff Test is more properly known as the "Sully" Test, then? Is there no end to this man's talents?
    posted by Jakey at 2:33 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


    They should put his name on a plaque. In case some of you were wondering who the best is.
    posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:20 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


    Why didn't the plane sink?

    it's pressurized and airtight. that's why you don't pass out at 31,000 feet. you can't even get the doors to open until the pilots normalize the pressure. that's why having the hull fractured would have been very nasty and that's why that qantas 747 recently made such a mad dash for the ground when a fire extinguisher blew a hole into the cargo hold right below the business class cabin.
    posted by krautland at 4:38 AM on January 16, 2009


    Oh man, that crash happened just few blocks from where I live and I feel badly to have been oblivious of the drama going on only minutes away. Didn't hear any airplane engine overhead. It must have glided into the river. It was soooo cold yesterday, those poor rascals. So glad nobody died! Brilliant pilot. wow.
    posted by nickyskye at 5:00 AM on January 16, 2009


    Why didn't the plane sink?

    it's pressurized and airtight.


    I don't think that's right... the pilot depressurizes the plane before ditching so that doors can be opened, etc. This plane was taking on water immediately and nearly submerged by the time they towed it.

    From my understanding, a nose-up landing gives the aircraft some buoyancy and slows the sinking, long enough in this case for the passengers to get off. But at least one said he was up to his chest in water in the back of the plane, and some were up to their knees, standing on the wings, by the time they got off (shiver).

    Great story.
    posted by torticat at 5:38 AM on January 16, 2009


    I can see the scene (a little) from my window.

    Amazing. Captain Sullenberger is the man of the year.
    posted by fourcheesemac at 5:49 AM on January 16, 2009


    For bird-strike, how about installing large, whirling blades in front of the jet engine intake? It would be like the birds were going through a food processor before they hit the engine, so it would just have to swallow small chunks.
    posted by orme at 6:11 AM on January 16, 2009


    Duug, I'm sure it totally helped. Coincidentally, Captain Pearson, the pilot who dead-sticked the "Gimli Glider" to an equally improbable landing in 1983, also had glider training.
    posted by anthill at 6:14 AM on January 16, 2009


    I salute the pilot and crew for an amazing landing. Simply amazing and perfect. Bravo.

    CTORourke, some airports use falconry to scare off birds such as Halifax. The article is from 2000, not sure if this method is used daily today at any airport. In Spain, Iberia Nature has stunning video of bird getting ingested into engine and flaming out. [video in Spanish — text English]. A lot of examples of falconry in action at airport. Some scenes not for the squeamish - falcons dive bomb their prey, the rest leave the area.


    JBennet's link to the website of plane approaching Hudson River landing have been acquired by AP and are in New York Times now.
    posted by alicesshoe at 6:39 AM on January 16, 2009


    >>> large, whirling blades in front of the jet engine intake

    I'm no engineer, but I can guess that ...
    a. the blades would compromise the intake volume, which at the very least would lower engine performance/efficiency.
    b. the engine maintenance guys would curse your name any time they'd pluck out chunks of once-frozen/quickly-thawing bits of bird gore. ew.
    posted by grabbingsand at 6:50 AM on January 16, 2009


    Also, it's possible that a bird could pass through an engine without causing very serious structural damage, as it's mostly water and the only seriously tough part is the bones. But if you put something in front of the engine that could get damaged/rip off/break when hit by a bird at just the right angle, and that something is made of high strength metal, now you have two problems...
    posted by felix at 7:46 AM on January 16, 2009


    Ok. No whirling blades. Maybe some lasers?
    posted by orme at 8:09 AM on January 16, 2009


    I don't think that's right... the pilot depressurizes the plane before ditching so that doors can be opened, etc. This plane was taking on water immediately and nearly submerged by the time they towed it.

    he probably did depressurize it (with the engines shutting down that would have happened anyway as the APU can't hold a cabin pressurized on its own) but the cabin is still airtight until they open the emergency exits. that's how water got inside in this case. at least until now I haven't seen any holes in the hull yet.

    Also, it's possible that a bird could pass through an engine without causing very serious structural damage, as it's mostly water and the only seriously tough part is the bones.

    often it's only one or two fan blades that need to be replaced but you do seem to get engine shut-downs when this happens followed by emergency landings. here is a video of a 757 suffering a birdstrike and performing a go-around. note the fireball.
    posted by krautland at 8:14 AM on January 16, 2009


    Oh man, that crash happened just few blocks from where I live
    hey neighbor, where do you live? I used to live in the hudson crossings building.
    posted by krautland at 8:17 AM on January 16, 2009


    My understanding is that the cabin was depressurized in preparation for the ditch, but that the luggage compartment below remained sealed and full of air, providing something of a cushion that helped the plane to stay afloat for a while.
    posted by keever at 8:23 AM on January 16, 2009


    Let's not forget about this bird strike from 1999.
    posted by JBennett at 8:48 AM on January 16, 2009


    NY Times has a really good animation of the flight path.
    posted by smackfu at 8:49 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


    *waves to krautland

    Say hey neighbor! In Hell's Kitchen.
    posted by nickyskye at 8:54 AM on January 16, 2009


    Are we sure it wasn't caused by a flock of seagulls?

    Bugger, fixedgear. That's what I get for being the 144th comment, I suppose.

    WANTED FOR QUESTIONING


    President Bush still has five days to declare the Global War on Bird Strikes.

    Bugger, Pater Aletheias. That's what I get for being the 144th comment, I suppose.

    But what will Obama do? Will he be ASLEEP at his POST like that dithering peacenik Clinton did with bin Laden? Huh? Huh?
    posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:30 AM on January 16, 2009


    the luggage compartment below remained sealed and full of air, providing something of a cushion that helped the plane to stay afloat for a while

    Also, the wings were full of fuel, which floats in water.
    posted by zsazsa at 10:09 AM on January 16, 2009


    Check out these paragraphs from an NYT story this morning:

    "What is that small airport, one pilot asked a controller. Teterboro, in New Jersey, the controller replied, and instructed the pilot to fly south along the Hudson River, then swing back to the north to land there."

    "Instead, the pilot told the controller that they would ditch the plane in the river. They then cleared the George Washington Bridge by about 900 feet, according to controllers, and at a point near the end of West 48th Street in Midtown Manhattan, the plane slid into the river’s smooth, gray waters."

    "In a few weeks, a close comparison of radar tapes and cockpit audiotapes will establish where the plane was when that clipped, urgent conversation took place, and other investigators will try to figure out why this one plane, flying through some of the world’s most congested airspace, was the only one to report a bird problem. The twin-engine plane is supposed to be able to fly on one engine."

    "But from early indications, it appears the pilot handled the emergency river landing with aplomb and avoided major injuries, evacuating the plane, an Airbus A320, calmly in the middle of the river, passengers and officials said."

    I admit I'm crazy, but am I the only one who has some skeptical thoughts after reading that text? It does seem that the NYT is beating around the bush about something. Again, I'm crazy, pilot's a hero, etc.
    posted by Mid at 10:41 AM on January 16, 2009


    "the controller ... instructed the pilot to fly south along the Hudson River, then swing back to the north to land there ... Instead, the pilot told the controller that they would ditch the plane in the river."

    This part isn't going to be an issue. Only the flight crew could judge the plane's condition and the available options.
    posted by anthill at 11:09 AM on January 16, 2009


    I admit I'm crazy, but am I the only one who has some skeptical thoughts after reading that text?

    Well, I think the Times story reads like it's written by someone who doesn't quite understand the subject but looked it up on Wikipedia. Like they say "The twin-engine plane is supposed to be able to fly on one engine." Nice, but both engines were out so... why is that relevant? He even says earlier that both engines were out. I also wonder how he can say so soon that this was the only plane that reported "a bird problem"?
    posted by smackfu at 11:21 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Just received a skeptical rumor through the mill: passenger reports have so far consistently mentioned only one 'bang', not two, leading some to suspect a repeat of the Kegworth air disaster, in which the pilots lost an engine, then mistakenly shut down the remaining working one...
    posted by anthill at 11:21 AM on January 16, 2009


    passenger reports have so far consistently mentioned only one 'bang', not two

    There also used to be an exhibit at the Ontario Science Center that showed a short clip of a (simulated) store robbery and then quizzed you on the details. A large percentage (like, 30, maybe 40?) of people saw a gun when there was a knife or vice-versa.

    Passengers' memories are not particularly reliable once they come to the realization they're only a few seconds from death. The black box will tell all in good time.
    posted by GuyZero at 12:28 PM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


    English Russia just had a piece about Soviet-era water landings, strangely enough...
    posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:29 PM on January 16, 2009


    I find it odd that the plane was able to land so smoothly and unscathed. Are we sure this isn't a viral promo for Lost?
    posted by mecran01 at 12:53 PM on January 16, 2009


    here's a photo showing the actual impact.

    blurry, probably security camera footage, but damn that's a splash.
    posted by krautland at 1:29 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Alicesshoe: (man this is the second footwear-themed handle I've responded to)

    CTORourke, some airports use falconry to scare off birds such as Halifax. The article is from 2000, not sure if this method is used daily today at any airport. In Spain, Iberia Nature has stunning video of bird getting ingested into engine and flaming out. [video in Spanish — text English]. A lot of examples of falconry in action at airport. Some scenes not for the squeamish - falcons dive bomb their prey, the rest leave the area.

    Yes I've heard of falconry to scare birds. However, the problem with it is that you're putting ANOTHER bird in the airspace. We have a contact who traps birds at the Los Angeles airport (LAX). He told me he once saw someone bring a falcon onto an airfield to scare birds, and stood there and watched as the falcon AND the duck it was chasing both got sucked into an engine. >.<

    Thanks for the links, I hadn't seen those! I actually am working with raptors for my thesis so their hunting doesn't phase me at all. ;)
    posted by CTORourke at 1:30 PM on January 16, 2009


    passenger reports have so far consistently mentioned only one 'bang', not two, leading some to suspect a repeat of the Kegworth air disaster, in which the pilots lost an engine, then mistakenly shut down the remaining working one...

    I don't know that you could blame a pilot for that. Hindsight is 20/20, but when you're up flying a plane and you think the engines are on fire, what would you do- leave them on and wait for the entire plane to explode, or turn them off and land somewhere you know you can?
    posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:29 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


    passenger reports have so far consistently mentioned only one 'bang', not two, leading some to suspect a repeat of the Kegworth air disaster, in which the pilots lost an engine, then mistakenly shut down the remaining working one...

    I don't know that you could blame a pilot for that. Hindsight is 20/20, but when you're up flying a plane and you think the engines are on fire, what would you do- leave them on and wait for the entire plane to explode, or turn them off and land somewhere you know you can?


    Yeah, also if you fly into a flock of birds aren't the bangs going to be almost simultaneous? I'm a born skeptic, but what is the rush to x-files this situation?
    posted by Divine_Wino at 3:20 PM on January 16, 2009


    PinkSuperhero, I'm not blaming the pilots. They're only a small part of the aircraft system, and they can't be expected to omnisciently deal with all its flaws. Since as you say, pilots have to make decisions very quickly, and since they can't very well walk down the aisle and take a peek inside each engine, their snap judgements depend on the cockpit instrumentation. In the Kegworth case, the engine vibration sensors that would have been the most tell-tale sign of engine trouble were small, unfamiliarly designed, and had a history of unreliability. I shouldn't speculate: we'll just have to wait for the FAA report.
    posted by anthill at 3:24 PM on January 16, 2009


    I see now why it pays to go First Class - those guys get the inflatable slide/lifeboat, everyone else gets to stand on the wings of the slowing sinking plane.
    posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:28 PM on January 16, 2009


    Another rumor, this time from PPRuNe, that apparently the copilot Jeffrey Skiles had ditched safely on water before. He might have been the one actually piloting the plane.
    posted by anthill at 3:49 PM on January 16, 2009


    anthill: it looks like that poster was just confused by some previous posts. The first officer was not the pilot of the Nimrod that ditched before.
    posted by zsazsa at 5:53 PM on January 16, 2009


    There IS video -- security cam posted to CNN ireport.
    posted by fourcheesemac at 5:56 AM on January 17, 2009


    Wow, that's amazing - within 2 minutes, the ferryboat was hauling ass to the plane.
    posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on January 17, 2009




    video. via.
    posted by cogneuro at 11:30 AM on January 17, 2009


    More surveillance camera videos of flight 1549 crash landing into the Hudson River.
    posted by ericb at 12:25 PM on January 17, 2009


    Oh, Zambrano… that's just sour grapes. That instructor just never got the key to any city for all the "lives" he's saved during his simulations.

    Sully/Kolodjay 2016
    posted by JBennett at 3:59 PM on January 17, 2009


    Higgins said the first officer -- identified by US Airways as Jeffrey B. Skiles, 49 -- was flying the aircraft on takeoff from New York's LaGuardia airport when he noticed a flock of birds as the plane climbed between 3,000 and 5,000 feet.

    "He commented (to Sullenberger) on the formation, and he said the next thing he knew the windscreen was filled with birds. There was no time to take evasive action," Higgins said.
    "Hey, look at the birdies! Oh Shit!!!!"
    posted by smackfu at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2009




    Photos of the recovery of the plane.
    posted by ryanrs at 10:55 PM on January 30, 2009


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