I received this computer animation of the US Airways crash on the Hudson River from a friend. It’s going around the internet like crazy right now. Graphics . . . not bad – a little hokey, and certainly more time crunched. It’s 2:07 long, starts with the initial call from Cactus to the NY TRACON departure controller and ends with people standing on the wing and sitting in the life rafts. While this happened incredibly fast, it didn’t happen THAT fast! Give it a look here, and continue below with three main observations I have about the ever-so-brief conversation this pilot and controller had.
Three things were noteworthy to me on this tape. Two are about the NY Departure Controller.
1. After the initial call from Cactus, the TRACON immediately got on the land line with LGA tower and TOLD him – hold all departures – you’ve got an emergency returning. Decisive. No hesitation, no delay, and informative – including answering tower’s somewhat inane question about which engine. (It DOESN’T MATTER which engine(s)!) Not saying that to ‘cast asparigus’ on the tower controller either… he was not in the loop and was just trying to get more information.
2. The controller was also VERY helpful with the suggestion of Teterboro. That was almost a viable option, (and with even a little thrust might have been doable). Don’t know whether the flight crew considered TEB before that or not, but it was helpful, succinct, timely, and offered a glimmer of, if only fleeting, hope other than an icy swim. Reminds me of an ORD controller after a Piedmont 737 lost an engine on Takeoff in January of ’89. Looking for the recording now, but I remember thinking at the time that I’ve never heard someone (ORD Tower Controller) say so much, so fast, and so effectively!
Bottom line: A professional controller kept it together and is probably due a little more recognition!
3. The F/O really held it together incredibly well. Another fine example of saying it, keeping cool and professional, and not allowing himself to be overcome by events. I listened to the tape about 3 or 4 times and only on ‘re-listening’ was I able to detect stress in the F/O’s voice. I’d like to think my voice would be that cool in a situation half that tense! In all my years in Aviation Safety, I’ve had occasion to either interview, or listen to interviews with several mishap pilots. The common thread I’ve noticed is that there was a ‘never give up’ attitude, and concurrently, at least one of the pilots never doubted their ability to survive intact. While I’ve not heard the official post-crash interviews with these gents, it’s clear they held it together and believed they were going to survive this chosen path.
That’s my 2¢ !