Greta Van Susteren: Crew of Flight 1549 (Part 2)

February 13, 2009

Flight 1549 posts

2-11 Greta Van Susteren:
Part 1 (video & transcript)
Part 3 (video)

I see I never posted this for some reason or if I did it got lost. Starting in the top left in a clockwise position: Fllght Attendants Sheila Dail, Doreen Welsh, Donna Dent, Capt Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Office Jeff Skiles.

Part 2 Video

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Part 2 Transcript

VAN SUSTEREN: We continue with Captain Sully and the crew of U.S. Air flight 1549.

Minutes after taking off from LaGuardia, Captain Sully and his crew were in trouble, big trouble. They hit birds. Both engines stopped. You need engines, of course, to stay in the air, and the engines would not restart. So what did they do? Opted for a landing in the Hudson River.


VAN SUSTEREN: The three of you knew that there was no power, right? You could tell there was no power?

SHEILA DAIL, US AIRWAYS FLIGHT ATTENDANT: It was very quiet, and I knew something was wrong. But I just was hoping that there was some power, because we were not going down. We were still — and I thought maybe they had cut back the engines for some reason, and we were just kind of gliding back to the airport. So that’s what I assumed.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, captain, when we listen to you on the recordings at the towers, and, frankly, I have listened to them and number of times because I find them fascinating, is you’re so calm and cool.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP – Pretty cool simulation of the flight sequence)


Full cockpit audio edited relevant audiotranscript of cockpit audio

Pat Harten was the Tracon air traffic controller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, you need to return to LaGuardia. Turn left to a heading of two, two, zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, two, zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flight 1529, he burnt strike, he lost all thrust in the engines.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lost thrust in both engines, he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flight 1529, I could not get for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We’re unable. We will end up in the Hudson.


SULLENBERGER: We were definitely on high alert, but we were talking to air traffic control in a very businesslike fashion. We were energized, but we knew what we had to do, and we did not have a lot of time in which to do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you make an announcement? Because frequently they’ll say “Ladies and gentlemen,” and make some announcement to the passengers, or were you way too busy for that?

SULLENBERGER: At that point, we were way too busy for that. That had to come later. It was a matter of priorities.

First, I had to maintain control of the aircraft. I had to decide what our flight path was going to be, and then we had to work together to try to solve this problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know how long it was between the time you lost power and you actually did the water landing? How long a period was that? Do you have any idea?

SULLENBERGER: If I had to take a guess for the data I’ve seen, it was a matter of minutes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like two or three?

SULLENBERGER: I think in that range.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the passengers were all quite and pretty much in the plane, or did some not seem to notice that there was an issue going on?

DOREEN WELSH, US AIRWAYS FLIGHT ATTENDANT: I did get out of my seat. I talked to the last five rose and tried to calm them down, saying that we will probably just go back to the airport, and we’ll be fine.

I had a fearful flyer in the back. She told me during boarding that she was petrified to fly. So I went up to make sure she was OK, and everything looked OK at the time. So I just returned back to my seat when Sully said “Brace for impact.”

VAN SUSTEREN: So are you guys talking at all to each other in the cabin, or do you know how to communicate just by virtue of what you’re doing, you’re sending signals to each other?

SULLENBERGER: Are you talking about Jeff and I?


SULLENBERGER: We worked very well together. What I was hoping would happen did, in fact, happen. I knew it was such an extremely time- critical problem that I didn’t think we had a lot of time to talk about it in a conversational way.

So what I was relying upon and what happened was Jeff had a similar understanding of the situation that I did from the very beginning. He was seeing and hearing and feeling the same things I was feeling.

I knew he was hearing what I was saying to air-traffic control vicariously understanding my thought process as I was considering and then rejecting as unrealistic certain alternatives-LaGuardia, and then Teterboro.

And it was obvious to us after a few second that there was really only one choice available to us that was possible, and that was to land in the river.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of the landing on water, I take it that it is not like landing on the runway. How are you supposed to bring that plane down?

SULLENBERGER: Well, it’s similar to landing on a runway. The same problems exist, except the wheels are not down, of course, and the surface on the water on the bottom of the airplane was going to be terribly unforgiving.

But there certain things that I knew I had to do. I had to touchdown with the wings exactly level, I needed to touch down a dissent that was survivable, and I needed to touch down with the nose slightly up, and I needed to touch down just above our minimum flying speed, but certainly not below it.

And I had to do all of these things simultaneously.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let’s start. The wings had to be level so, what? So you do not flip the plane? Is that the point of having the wing s level?


VAN SUSTEREN: And how do you do that? Great skill, right?

SULLENBERGER: I pulled exactly straight back on the control stick as I was raising the nose to decrease our rate of descent to touch the water.

VAN SUSTEREN: People think water is soft, but it is not. It is not forgiving. It will hit you hard.

SULLENBERGER: And if you hit the water with an airplane at that speed, it feels hard.

VAN SUSTEREN: How fast did you hit it, do you think?

SULLENBERGER: I don’t want to speculate. I have not seen the data. But I am told we achieved the parameters that we were trying to achieve.

VAN SUSTEREN: What are the parameters for a runway?

SULLENBERGER: Typically in the 150, 160 miles per hour range.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the water the same or about the same?

SULLENBERGER: We were probably at or slightly below the typical landing speed. I was trying to get as slow as I could to minimize the forces on the airplane and on us.

VAN SUSTEREN: What were you doing as he was doing this?

JEFFREY SKILES, US AIR CO-PILOT: At that point I had given up trying to start the engines, obviously, and I was sort of waiting for the impact, because then we had to evacuate the aircraft.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you were trying to start these engines while he was dealing with landing this plane, up until that point?

SKILES: Up until that point, yes, that was my primary role. We have an order of procedures that we have to do try to hopefully restart the engines in situations like this, but they were too damaged by the geese to do so.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if you’re hitting the backend of the plane you’re not landing on wheel, I imagine, you got a good beating back there. That is like dropping a tail on a runway, practically, right?

DOREEN WELSH, US AIR FLIGHT ATTENDANT: There are two separate situations. I mean, the mass and everything fell, and things flew all over the place, and everything in the back. It was a different story than in the front.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was the plane like in the front?

DONNA DENT, US AIR FLIGHT ATTENDANT: It was hard landing, but not that bad. It was a pretty hard landing.

VAN SUSTEREN: I assume it was worse than a runway.

DENT: Probably worse that a runway, but not that bad, really.


VAN SUSTEREN: We would like to thank the Helmsley Park Lane hotel for letting us do the interview at their hotel.

Tomorrow night you will hear the rest of our interview with Captain Sully and the crew, the inside story on what exactly what happened inside the U.S. Air jet as it began to sink into the Hudson River.

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