Home > chesley sullenberger, Uncategorized > miracle at the hudson – the miracle that “doing the right thing” made possible

miracle at the hudson – the miracle that “doing the right thing” made possible

we are giddy with the miracle at the hudson, the miracle that saved all 155 passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 on the hudson river that wasn’t supposed to be a 100% happy moment. we are so giddy that we have read each and every news item the internet has on the miracle, never mind that many were repeats of previous articles. we read them just the same and after reading each one, we get this warm and fuzzy feeling over and over again. it never failed.

every aviation expert or pilot have said this kind of landing on water was not supposed to be perfect. the chances of a catastrophic end was the expectation while saving some lives would be a miracle. but the hudson river miracle saw 100% of passengers and crew alive. the world needs to invent a new word better than miracle just for this one.

passengers await rescue on the wings of the plane

passengers await rescue on top of the plane sitting on the hudson river

 i was searching for an explanation on why every article i have read on it gave goose bumps. after a few coffee cups and a dozen more articles, on top of the dozens i have read, i think i know the answer.

at this time of the world where everything is going wrong, where things that were previously fine all of a sudden turned bad and wrong, the hudson river miracle defied all of it. a water landing of a full sized airplane on a river in bustling city was supposed to go wrong. but it did not.

our investments in wall street were supposed to be safe and booming. we knew america as THE place where when it comes to money and business, things always go right. but it didn’t. know we hear the regulators were not at all regulating, the banks were lending to people who were not supposed to be lent money, ponzi schemes are supposed  to be thriving only in 3rd world countries, banks are supposed to be safe and detroit, the cars that generations upon generations of americans so love to drive, iconic and a sacred part of the American psyche are now in trouble and a few brand names may soon be seen only in museums.

everything that we knew and have lived through as right seem to have just turned wrong and bad on us.

but not the hudson miracle. this is a gigantic reversal of fortunes where what was supposed to be tragically wrong and sad  turned into something heroically right and happy.  this is probably the only plane crash in the history of  the world that we will celebrate.

and how was that wrong turned into something right?

there is one sentence to describe it – everyone, simply did the right thing

Captain Chesley Sullenberger III, the Hudson River Miracle miracle maker

captain Chesley Sullenberger, the Hudson River Miracle miracle maker

first, captain Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of the US Airways flight did everything right, all according to his training. pilots train in simulators for this kind of landing on the water. they know what to do, and from what i have read there were so many things the pilot needed to do, from what and what not to do and in the right sequence. 

you can train on simulators all your life, but it is always different when you are actually into the situation itself in real life.

and that is where the human factor comes in. the passengers of that flight were completely lucky that the pilot they had on the flight was sullenberger as this man had the brains and steady heart to do exactly how he was trained to do it. his wife said, that was the man he knew and described him as a “consummate professional”, “controlled and professional”. the passengers were lucky that the  human that controlled the human factor was someone named captain sullenberger.

according to the co-pilot, sullenberger was the last man to disembark from the sinking airplane. sullenberger walked through the aisles of the airplane not only once but twice (!) to make sure nobody was still left inside the plane. i am not sure if walking down the aisle of a sinking airplane is part of his training manual, but that action tells us how much bigger of a human he is than all of us and it confirms in a most eloquent way what his wife say about sullenberger – a consummate professional.

sullenberger doing the right thing is a significant part of the success of the hudson river miracle but others have also done the right thing that made sure it was a success till the end.

next were the flight crew doing the right things. passengers from the plane were all praises for the crew and many of them have said the evacuation was flawless and done in orderly way. that can only mean the flight crew were doing their jobs the right way, again according to their training.

that is inside the airplane. once outside the airplane, it becomes a different story all together. this is winter and they were stepping out to the frigid waters of the hudson river. experts said a 3 minute exposure to the frigid waters will cause people not to be able to use their arms and legs.  while they all stayed on rafts and the wings of the airplane, exposure to the water was a clear danger. the airplane was in the process of sinking at that time, so quickly getting out of the wings and the vicinity of the plane was important.

that did not matter as in just a matter of minutes, the passengers were being pulled out of the water, rafts and wings of the  plane by the coast guard, ferries and other water crafts that were on the hudson river at the time. the hudson river is widely used by many and varied crafts and authorities say there have been agreements among them on how they can help authorities in emergency situations such as plucking people out of the water. again, that is everyone else, government and private businesses that use the hudson river were doing the right thing, according to their training and according to agreements.  

the hudson river miracle was made possible because everyone involved and that started with captain sullenberger simply did the right thing. that might sound too simple and ordinary, but it isn’t as they were done in life threatening time. when you see people doing the right thing amidst something not very right at all, a miracle just happened.


  1. January 17, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    from a Los Angeles Times article : captain sullenberger was the last man to leave the sinking airplane. he boarded a ferry while clutching a clipboard with the names of the passengers in the plane. what an amazing man!

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