“This was not a crash
and it wasn’t a ditching.
We knew what we were trying to execute here.
It was not a…
It was not a crash.
It was a forced water landing.”
“Why didn’t you attempt to return to LaGuardia?”
“There simply was not enough altitude. The Hudson was the only place that was long enough and smooth enough and wide enough to even attempt to land the airplane safely.”
“Air Traffic testified that you stated you were returning to LaGuardia, but you did not.”
“As I began the left turn, I realized I couldn’t make it back and it would have eliminated all the other options.
Returning to LaGuardia would have been a mistake.”
“Okay, well, let’s get into how you calculated all those parameters.”
“There was no time for calculating.
I had to rely on my experience of managing the altitude and speed of thousands of flights over four decades.”
“You’re saying you didn’t do any…”
“I eyeballed it.”
“You eyeballed it’?”
“The best chance those passengers had was on that river.
And I’d bet my life on it.
In fact, I did.
And I would do it again.”
“Aviation engineers are theorizing you had enough energy to make it back to a runway.”
“Well, engineers are not pilots.
And they weren’t there.”
“Regardless, we have to follow up on all implications as part of our investigation.
Our computers will run return scenario algorithms. It’ll generate simulations with your exact parameters. The dual engine loss, the altitude.
Everything you faced when you made your decision.”
“I would like to oversee those computer simulations.”
“Not possible during an investigation.
You stated that it was a dual engine failure due to multiple bird strikes?
That would be unprecedented.”
“Well, everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time.”
I’m sorry if you’re frustrated, but our job is to investigate how a plane ended up in the Hudson River.”
“Isn’t it a little early in the year to go fishing?”
“Seeking the facts is hardly “fishing,” Mr. Skiles.”
“Okay, then here’s the most important fact.
There’s only two people who know what happened in the cockpit that day and I’m one of them.”
“And we appreciate your perspective.
Why do you even think we’re here today?
It’s because Captain Sullenberger did not head back to LaGuardia.”
“Look, I just finished training on the A320 and I can tell you,
the only reason the plane operated as well as it did, that the aircraft could land anywhere, is because Captain Sullenberger turned on the Auxiliary Power Unit.
He was simply following the QRH.”
“No. No, he wasn’t.”
“He wasn’t following proper procedure at all.”
“And I know, because I had the QRH in my hands.
He switched on the APU immediately after engine rollback.”
“According to Airbus, that’s the 15th thing on the list to do.
“If he had followed the damn rules, we’d all be dead.
Maybe that’s the part you don’t like.”
“You’re not used to having answers to your guesses.”
“Look, what Jeff is saying is that I know the A320, what it does and what it doesn’t do.
I have read countless CUR transcripts of deceased pilots and I have significant accident investigation experience.”
“There is no question that you are a talented, dedicated, experienced professional.
But all the flights you piloted before January 15th and every crash you investigated are not the purview of this investigation.
Only US Airways 1549 matters today.”
“All right. LaGuardia, Cactus 1549, dual engine failure.
We have to return to the field.”
“Okay. I’m gonna left turn back to LaGuardia 1-3.”
FEMALE PILOT 1: “I’ll activate the approach for you. It’s activated. Runway 1-3. Glide slopes coming in nicely. Sink Rate 900.
AUTOMATED VOICE: “Too low, flaps. Flight slow. Too low, flaps. “Forty, 30, 20…”
“Successful landing at LaGuardia, runway 1-3.”
“For the record, the pilots and the computer sims bear the same result.
Let’s try for Teterboro now, please.
Upload the second run.”
MALE PILOT 1: “Birds.”
FEMALE PILOT 2: “Give me a heading 3-1-0.”
MALE PILOT 1: “Heading 3-1-0. I’m gonna give you direct to Teterboro.”
FEMALE PILOT 2: “Direct Teterboro.”
AUTOMATED VOICE: “One thousand. Flaps two.”
MALE PILOT 1: “Flaps two. Too low, terrain. Too low, terrain. Fifty, 40, 30, 20…
FEMALE PILOT: “Successful landing at Teterboro, runway 1-9.”
“Multiple airports, runways, two successful landings.
We are simply mimicking what the computer already told us.”
“A lot of toes were stepped on in order to set this up for today. And frankly’ I really don’t know what you gentlemen plan to gain by it.
Can we get serious now?”
“We’ve all heard about the computer simulations and now we are watching actual sims. But I can’t quite believe you still have not taken into account the human factor.”
“Human piloted simulations showed that you could make it back to the airport.”
“No, they don’t.
These pilots were not behaving like human beings, like people who are experiencing this for the first time.”
“Well, they may not be reacting like you did.”
“Immediately after the bird strike, they are turning back for the airport.
Just as in the computer sims, correct?”
“That is correct.”
“They obviously knew the turn and exactly what heading to fly.
They did not run a check.
They did not switch on the APU.”
“They had all the same parameters that you faced.”
“No one warned us.
No one said, ‘You are going to lose both engines at a lower altitude than any jet in history. But be cool. Just make a left turn for LaGuardia’, like you’re going back to pick up the milk….
This was dual engine loss at 2,800 feet followed by an immediate water landing with 155 souls onboard.
No one has ever trained for an incident like that.
The Teterboro landing, with its unrealistic bank angle…….we were not the Thunderbirds up there.
I’d like to know how many times the pilot practiced that maneuver before he actually pulled it off.
I’m not questioning the pilots. They’re good pilots. But they’ve clearly been instructed to head for the airport immediately after the bird strike.
You’ve allowed no time for analysis or decision-making.
In these simulations, you’ve taken all of the humanity out of the cockpit.
How much time did the pilots spend planning for this event? For these simulations?
You are looking for human error. Then make it human.
This wasn’t a video game. It was life and death.”
“Sully’s right. That’s worth a few seconds.
Please ask how many practice runs they had.”
(CLEARS THROAT) “Seventeen.”
“The pilot who landed at Teterboro had 17 practice attempts before the simulation we just witnessed.
Your reaction decision time will be set at 35 seconds.”
“Thirty-five seconds. That’s not enough time.
We only had 208 seconds total, so I’ll take it.”
“Upload the link.
Return to LaGuardia.
Now with an added 35-second delay in response time.”
FEMALE PILOT 1: “Birds.
MALE PILOT 2: “Okay, I saw them.”
“Give me 35 seconds.”
FEMALE PILOT 1: “Thirty-five seconds.”
“Time’s up. Here we go.
Flight path vector. Going for 1-3.”
MALE PILOT 2: “Activate confirm.”
FEMALE PILOT 1: “All right. You are confirmed.”
MALE PILOT 2: “We’re heading right for the airport.”
AUTOMATED VOICE: “Caution, obstacle. Caution, obstacle.”
FEMALE PILOT 1: “We’re about seven miles from the runway.”
AUTOMATED VOICE: “Caution, obstacle. Pull up. Pull up. Pull up. Pull up. Too low, terrain.”
FEMALE PILOT 1: “We got a little extra speed. You want some flaps?”
AUTOMATED VOICE: “Too low, terrain.”
MALE PILOT 2: “No, leave the flaps up.”
AUTOMATED VOICE: “Too low, terrain. Too low, terrain. Too low, terrain. Fifty, 40, 30, 20…”
“Let’s try Teterboro.
Upload the link, please.”
MALE PILOT 1: “Birds.”
FEMALE PILOT 2: “Auto pilot off. Flight Director off. Hack the time.”
MALE PILOT 1: “Thirty-five seconds.”
MALE PILOT 1: “Engine one and two fail.”
FEMALE PILOT 2: “Okay.”
FEMALE PILOT 2: “Let’s see if we can make it.”
MALE PILOT 1: “Heading sub 2-9-8. You seeing Teterboro out there’?”
FEMALE PILOT 2: “I do. Way too low.”
AUTOMATED VOICE: “Obstacle, obstacle. Pull up. Pull up. Pull up. Pull up. Pull up.”
FEMALE PILOT 2: “Not gonna work, not gonna work.”
AUTOMATED VOICE: “Pull up. Pull up.”
“Does anyone need to see more simulations?”
“That is honestly the first time that I have listened to a crash recording while actually sitting with the captain and the first officer.
That was no simulation.
I’d like to add something on a personal note. I can say with absolute confidence that after speaking with the rest of the flight crew, with bird experts, aviation engineers, after running through every scenario, after interviewing each player, there is still an “X” in this result and it’s you, Captain Sullenberger.
Remove you from the equation, and the math just fails.”
It wasn’t just me. It was all of us. It was Jeff and Donna and Sheila and Doreen and all of the passengers, the rescue workers, air traffic control, ferry boat crews and the scuba cops.
We all did it.
“First Officer Skiles, is there anything you’d like to add?
Anything you would have done differently if you had to do it again?”
“Yes. I would have done it in July.”
[Sully – 2016]