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"Miracle on the Hudson" and KAL 007



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The "Miracle on the Hudson" and KAL 007

On 15 January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 (an Airbus A320) successfully ditched into the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey, after reports of multiple bird strikes. The aircraft came down on the Hudson with no engine power and slightly tail down (to prevent immediate sinking by the nose "plowing in"). All of the 155 passengers and crew aboard escaped and were rescued by passenger ferries and day-cruise boats, in spite of freezing temperatures (the ditching occurred near the Circle Line and New York Waterway piers in midtown Manhattan). The survival rate was 100%.

The captain was Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, 57, a former fighter pilot who had been an airline pilot since leaving the US Air Force in 1980.  He is also a safety expert and a glider pilot.

Startlingly successful, the set down brought to the consciousness of all that it is indeed possible for passengers of such an air incident to be brought from open exits and from the inflated ramps onto the wings of a floating plane and there to stand waiting to be brought down to boats for evacuation to the land. This supports the testimony of fishermen off the shores of Moneron Island, as reported to the Israeli Research Centre for Prisons, Psychprisons, and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR, who had witnessed just such a happening for KAL 007 - people standing on the wings of the floating jumbo jet, some with some sort of hand luggage, being evacuated into waiting boats.

KAL 007 had also been piloted by an expert. A KAL pilot since 1972, a former fighter pilot, just as Capt Sullenberger, with 10,600 hours of flight time with 6,618 hours on the Boeing 747, Captain Chun Byung-in had been nominated as the President of Korea's personal pilot.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Board member Kitty Higgins, the principal spokesperson for the on-scene Flight 1549 investigation, said at a press conference the day after the accident that it "has to go down [as] the most successful ditching in aviation history." This statement is not entirely correct. There has been quite a number of successful intentional water landings of passenger planes, some also resulting in a 100% survival rate, and there has never been a case when there have not been survivors of such a water ditching. Here are the details:

  • US Airways Flight 1549, Airbus A320, New York City to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, 15 January 2009, made a controlled safe water ditching into the Hudson River after losing thrust in both engines due to bird strike at about 3000 feet altitude three minutes into the flight; 155 passengers and crew made an orderly evacuation as a NYC fireboat towed the floating aircraft with passengers standing on the wing, 100% survival rate
  • Tuninter Air, Flt. 1153, August 6, 2005, of the coast of Sicily, 39 occupants, 23 survivors, 59% survival rate
  • Miami Air Lease Convair CV-340, December 4, 2004, Mall lake, Florida, 2 occupants, 2 survivors, 100% survival rate
  • Ethiopian Air Lines 767, November 23, 1996, off the Comoros Islands, 175 occupants, 45 survivors, 26% survival rate
  • Though not a passenger plane, still relevant - Columbian AF C 130 Hercules, October 1982, en route between the Azores and Bermuda stayed afloat for 2 days!
  • ALM DC9, May 2, 1970, the Caribbean, 63 occupants, 40 survivors, 63% survival rate
  • Aeroflot Tupolev 124, October, 1963, Neva river, 52 occupants, 52 survivors, 100% survival rate
  • Flying Tiger's Super H Constellation passenger aircraft with a crew of 8 and 68 U.S. military (paratrooper) passengers. Sept. 28, 1962. Aircraft ditched in the North Atlantic about 500 miles west of Shannon, Ireland, after losing three engines on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Forty-five of the passengers and 3 crew were rescued, with 23 passengers and 5 crew members being lost in the storm-swept seas. All passengers successfully evacuated the airplane. Those who were lost succumbed in the rough seas. 100% survival rate for landing and evacuation.
  • Pan Am Flt. 943 Stratocruiser "Sovereign of the Skies", October 16, 1956, in the Pacific between Honolulu and San Francisco, 30 passengers and crew, 30 survivors, 100% survival rate
  • Northwest Orient Airlines Flt. 2, Boeing Stratocruiser, April 2, 1956, ditched in 430 feet Puget Sound, 38 passengers, all survived the ditching but 4 could not recover the freezing waters, 87% survival rate

For a credible sighting of KAL 007 on the waters, see The Rescue.


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Last modified: March 10, 2009

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