As 'Sully' debuts, a look back at the 'Miracle on the Hudson'
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The January 2009 splash landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River immediately became part of aviation lore. Now, more than six years later, the story of the "Miracle on the Hudson” is set for a revival.
That’s thanks to the release of Sully – a Hollywood blockbuster movie out nationwide on Friday. It stars Tom Hanks as Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the Flight 1549 captain who landed the Airbus A320 in the Hudson after a bird strike disabled both the jet’s engines moments after takeoff.
All 150 passengers and five crew survived. Shots of the US Airways jetliner – bobbing in the icy Hudson as passengers were rescued by boats – became iconic "Miracle on the Hudson" images. It all played out just hundreds of yards from the Manhattan shoreline.
As Sully the movie heads for its release, dozens of Flight 1549 articles have surfaced in media outlets across North America. The buzz seems likely to grow as Sully enters its first weekend in theaters.
But to remember the stunning events that set the stage for the movie, Today in the Sky will take a look back at the event itself. Check out archival “Miracle on the Hudson” photos above. Or scroll down from snippets (and links) from our 2009 news coverage after the actual event.
Among the items that still reverberate today are the cockpit radio communications transcript from Flight 1549 and this USA TODAY story that includes audio from Sullenberger and a Flight 1549 passenger during testimony to Congress.
Scroll down to see highlights from USA TODAY's 2009 coverage:
Landing hailed as 'Miracle on the Hudson,' probe begins(Jan. 15, 2009)
In what New York's governor called "a miracle on the Hudson," a veteran pilot glided a US Airways jetliner with two dead engines onto the river's frigid surface so smoothly Thursday that all of the 150 passengers and five crewmembers escaped serious injury. Some didn't even get their feet wet.
One day after pilot Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger, 58, heroically guided the disabled U.S. Airways jetliner to safety in the portion of the Hudson River off Midtown Manhattan, investigators on Friday brought in a giant crane and a barge to help pull the plane from the waterway. Full story
Safe water landing rare (Jan. 15, 2009)
"This is only the fourth time in the jet era" that pilots have intentionally put an airliner down in water, said Todd Curtis, a former Boeing safety engineer who runs the AirSafe.com website. Full story (sidebar, scroll down to the left)
US Airways Flight 1549 crew honored at Super Bowl (Feb. 2, 2009)
US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and the rest of the crew for Flight 1549 were honored before Sunday's Super Bowl between Pittsburgh and Arizona for helping rescue 150 passengers after an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River. Full story
'Miracle on the Hudson' pilot retiring (March 3, 2009)
Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who was hailed a hero after piloting the US Airways flight that landed on the Hudson River in January of last year, is retiring.
Sullenberger will fly his final flight Wednesday afternoon with his co-pilot during the Hudson landing, First Officer Jeff Skiles. Sullenberger will end his 30-year career when he lands at his home base at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. He will officially retire at a private ceremony there with fellow pilots and other US Airways employees. Full story
US Airways CEO got some Flight 1549 info on TV (March 25, 2009)
US Airways Chief Executive Doug Parker got some of his first details about the jetliner that splashed into the Hudson River the same way most Americans did. On TV.
The airline boss told reporters at the company's headquarters on Tuesday that he was in a meeting with his top finance people when the company's chief lobbyist walked into the room, leaned down, and told Parker that one of their planes was in the river. Full story
Excerpts of Flight 1549 cockpit communications (June 9, 2009)
Sullenberger (over public address system) (15:29:11): This is the Captain brace for impact. Full story
Experience averts tragedy in Hudson landing (June 9, 2009)
Only 22 seconds before their violent splashdown in the Hudson River last January, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger coolly spoke to co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles. "Any ideas?" Sullenberger said.
Their Airbus A320 engines had been heavily damaged by a flock of birds and attempts to restart them had failed. Local airports were too far away, forcing them to attempt an almost unprecedented water landing. An automated cockpit warning system was screeching that they were too low.
"Actually not," Skiles replied. Full story
NTSB: Pilots ill-trained for water landings (June 9, 2009)
The crew aboard US Airways Flight 1549 acted heroically after birds hit their plane over New York, but the dramatic water landing and evacuation had problems that point to needed safety improvements, new investigative reports show. Full story
'Miracle on the Hudson' reveals passengers' stories (Oct. 12, 2009)
The crash-landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River last Jan. 15 became the feel-good story of the year — a happy moment in a time of economic despair. The world watched, mesmerized, as the passengers stepped out onto the wings and climbed aboard ferries that rescued all of them.
The pilot, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, was hailed as a hero for delicately gliding the 75-ton jet to a safe landing in the river. But the flight was more traumatic, and the rescue more precarious, than those early images suggest. Interviews with 118 passengers reveal that many expected to die as they rode the crashing airliner down. Then, having survived the crash, many faced death again in icy water. Full story
It wasn't until after US Airways Flight 1549 had landed in the Hudson River, and passenger Karin Hill was stepping through an emergency exit onto the wing, that it hit her.
"I thought, 'My coat! My purse!' " she recalls. They were both back at seat 18E, where she was sitting Jan. 15 when the jetliner hit birds, destroying its engines and forcing it to ditch in the Hudson.
Then logic returned. "I can't get them," she thought. "I'm not going back there." Full story
Readers ask, 'Sully' Sullenberger answers (Oct. 12, 2009)
US Airways Flight 1549 pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger answers questions submitted by USA TODAY readers. Full story