Captain Chesley Sullenberger, known as "Sully", and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles. Relaxed, the two unblemished career men complete routine procedures. They are perfectly healthy, very experienced, and do not drink, as the surveys will show later.Smiling brown, mustachioed and athletic, Skiles, 49, has 15,600 flight hours, but only 37 on the A320. Sully, 57, white hair and mustache, cheerful face, flew his first plane at 16. He took everything to the skies, from simple gliders to the behemoths of civil aviation, including Phantom military aircraft of the US Air Force, where he served in the 1970s.One of his closest colleagues spoke of him as follows: “An exceptionally intelligent, polite and professional man. Sully had 19,600 hours of flight time that day, including 4,700 on the A320. But it is the following minutes which will inscribe him in eternity.
At 3:25 p.m., the plane took off on runway 4 of the airport, located in a highly urbanized area of the Queens district, east of Manhattan. Two minutes later, the Airbus was 2,800 feet (just over 850 meters): the dreaded red zone for pilots, where a third of air accidents occur. When, suddenly, shadows cross the cockpit. "Birds ..." says Sully. It is a flock of Canada geese, a migratory species whose specimens can weigh more than 6 kilos. Dull shocks are heard in the cabin when the geese hit the cabin, and at least two are sucked in by each of the engines. The plane suddenly lost speed." Oh ! Oh ! "Says the co-pilot. "The two engines fail us," says Sully. A handful of seconds later, he disconnected the autopilot and took over the controls. He warns, laconic, of the control tower. Any hesitation can now cause a catastrophe. The alarms are howling. Sully orders his co-pilot to consult the "Quick Reference Handbook", the emergency check-list, and sounds the alert on the radio: "Mayday, mayday, mayday. We have struck birds, we no longer have thrust on either of the two engines. We return to LaGuardia. The control tower tells him to veer to his left at 220 degrees, which he does, in the axis of the Hudson River.
At 3:27 p.m., Sully disconnected the autopilot and took control. Any hesitation can now cause a catastrophe. With astounding calm, the duo then attempted the engine restart procedure detailed in the "Quick Reference Handbook". Skiles reads: "If there is fuel remaining, engine, select ignition. "Sully performs the maneuver:" Ignition. "Skiles:" Slow push, confirmation. "Sully:" Slow down. "Four seconds later, Skiles scrutinizes the instruments:" We need an optimal speed, 300 knots. We don't have that. "Sully:" We don't have it. The plane is in distress.LaGuardia's control tower offers a landing on runway 13. Sully replies: “We can't do it. We could end up in the Hudson. The captain is obsessed with a risk: if he returns to LaGuardia, he will have to fly over Manhattan, where he risks causing the apocalypse by crashing right next to the theater of the September 11, 2001 attacks.The aircraft headed for runway 13 but a traffic alarm sounded. "Track 4 available", relaunches control. "I'm not sure we can reach any trail. Uh, what do we have on our right, in New Jersey ... Maybe Teterboro? Said Sully. It is a small airport located about twenty kilometers from Manhattan.
Here critical decision has to be made. In such circumstances all the meaning of Crew Ressources Management is present and has to be effectively applied. Flight cew with this regard are basically well trained. The plane seriously falters, loses altitude and a new alarm sounds, the GPWS, which signals the proximity of the ground. Here critical decision has to be made. At 3:29 p.m., for the first time, Sully turned on the on-board radio and addressed the passengers.’’Here is the Captain. Prepare for impact’’. The 150 passengers, paralyzed since takeoff, then understand that they are on the verge of death. As the crew yells at them to bend down, they get into position, in tears, in prayers, trembling or in silence.
In the 2D seat, John Howell, an accountant, thinks of his brother, a firefighter who died in the Word Trade Center on September 11, 2001. "Parents will be mad with grief," he thinks. Laura Zych and Ben Bostich, two strangers who exchanged glances in the boarding queue, and are sitting three seats apart, look at each other again. They will form a couple after their miraculous survival. Lori Lightner thinks oddly of the employees she fires in the supermarkets she runs. She will quit her job for the Red Cross after the accident. Stephanie King, a lawyer who is to be married soon, burst into tears with her eyes closed, thinking of the man she loves.
At 3:29 p.m., the crew ordered at the passengers to lean over to prepare for the impact. The last engine power indicators go out. At air traffic control, who asked him which runway he chose in Teterboro, Sully replied: "We can't do it. We're going to meet in the Hudson. The plane descends towards the river, a terrifying maneuver where the speed must be reduced but not too much, failing to see the plane lose its lift and sink like a common pebble in the dark waters."Get out the shutters, get out the shutters!" Sully orders. Skiles: "Shutters out. 250 feet. The plane is less than 80 meters from the water. Skiles: "Two components, do you want more? The plane descends a few dozen meters from the water. Sully: "No. Two, it's good ... Do you have an idea? "Skiles:" Actually ... No. "At 3.30 pm, five minutes after take-off, Sully announces: “We are going to prepare. A shock when the tail hits the water first, the plane tips over to the left, turns ... and comes to a stop. The aircraft was descending at 120 knots, approximately 220 km / hour, just enough not to break.
The plane is intact, it floats. Only four passengers and one crew member were slightly injured. Fortunately, while this equipment was not required on this flight, the six doors of the aircraft are equipped with slides that Cabin Crew inflate. The water rises quickly on the plane when the doors open. The passengers at the bottom of the aircraft, who see the water rising to their thorax, shout. A hysterical queue forms near each exit.The flight attendant help the passengers get out. They are trained to handle such a critical situation with training simulation in pool simulator. They note that some do not wear life jackets. So they go get them under the seats and pass them. When everyone seems to have alighted, the two pilots and Cabin Crew checked the plane one last time. They take their luggage and exit quietly from the front. Boats are already flocking from New York. The Airbus sinks quickly.
Months later, Sully, will be criticized for not returned to LaGuardia and Teterboro, which would have saved a plane to 100 million. It is reported that simulations demonstrated that it was possible ... provided you make an immediate U-turn after meeting with the birds. The two men overturned this accusation.They will then be celebrated worldwide. Clint Eastwood tell their story in "Sully," a film released in 2016, with Tom Hanks in the title role. Sully has always refused to see himself as a hero: “I only did my job. His advice? "Leave your ego at the door and tell yourself we're going to do something useful."
Retired, Captain Sully became a consultant, has written several books. In one of them, "Making a Difference" (He made the difference, published in 2012), he witnesses men and women who have acted bravely in various situations. According to him, "there are a lot of people who do this kind of thing in everyday life". The pilot dialogues have been translated from English since the official transcription of the recording kept on each aircraft.This story is informed by the report of the NTSB (official American investigation authority for air accidents), the testimony of survivors published in New York newspapers and the British daily newspaper "The Guardian" and an interview with Sully granted to the CNN TV channel. The reconstruction was carried out with the help of Alexandre Salomé, captain, and Paul Dalmasso, lawyer and amateur pilot.
"Many people know that I left US Airways a short year after the famous flight but many do not know that I have not retired. just changed profession, not only as a speaker, author ,he has written or co-authored several books on the 2009 accident and his career, and safety expert, but also as a safety advocate in public transport as well as in industries. When I realized that the sudden notoriety had made me more audible, I felt the intense obligation to use this "pulpit" to do good. "
In 2011, a year after receiving the Legion of Honor in France, Sully notably developed a video training program to encourage employees to be more vigilant about the safety conditions in their work and the organization of their tasks. Since January 2017, Sully has been working on a committee advising the United States Department of Transport, a working group specifically responsible for thinking about future autonomous transport vehicles.
The former captain, who continues to fly for short personal private flights, has kept some memories of the US Airways 1549, some flight sheets as well as weather forecasts on board that famous day.
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