Flight 1549: Congressional Hearing summary

February 24, 2009

Flight 1549 posts

Hearing on U.S. Airways Flight 1549
Testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation

Present were Captain Sullenberger. First Officer Jeff Skiles, Flight Attendants: Sheila Dail, Doreen Welsh, Donna Dent and Air Traffic Controller, Patrick Harten Рthe mystery voice on the cockpit recordings.

What they had to say was an indictment on the airline industry, especially they are all career airline people. Between them they have ~160 years of experience. 170 with Harten.

Anemic ovation.



(Tuscon Citizen)

Capt Sullenberger, Jeff Skiles and Pat Harten.

They sure looked happy to see each other. Harten never said how long it took for him to find out or what he did or felt when he heard. That’s what I’m curious about. I never saw an interview with Harten. Guess we wait for the books or the movie. Surprised one isn’t out yet.

  • Lives saved because of a concerted effort of a very experienced, well-trained flight crew, the guidance of expert air traffic controllers, the passengers themselves and the first responders in the water. That was truly a sight to see. Within 5 minutes passengers were being rescued off the wings.
  • HARTEN: He knew what Sully meant when he said he was going in the Hudson and that he was “going to be the last person to talk to anyone on that plane alive.” In the couple of minutes it took to go down – Harten talked with 14 people to try to get a runway open. If you haven’t listened to the tape, it’s worthwhile. The relevant part is less than 5 minutes. [Links below] And although Harten was relieved very quickly (the anguish in his voice is tough to hear) they made him stay for another 6 hours – answering questions and doing reports – before he could go home and relax.
  • SKILES: 32 years in aviation, approximately 20,000 hours of flight time. Earns 50% less and lost his retirement to a PBGC promise that will pay pennies on the dollar.
  • SKILES: “Experienced crews in the cockpit eventually will be a thing of the past”.
  • SULLENBERGER: 42 years in aviation, USAF, accident investigation, 29 years airline industry, 20,000 hours of flight time and nearly 1 million passengers flown safely. Even with his experience and safety record, his pay was cut by 40% and his pension was terminated and replaced with some as Skiles. When his company offered, 60% of laid off pilots refused to return to work.
  • SULLY: “management must work with labor to bargain in good faith”
  • SKILES: “promote better balance between airline management and airline employees” Especially in mediation.
  • BOTH said they know no one who is encouraging their children to follow in their footsteps.
  • BOTH have other jobs as a necessary supplement to their income.
  • SULLY: founded an aviation consulting business: Safety Reliability Methods, Inc.
  • SKILES: has worked as a general contractor for the last 6 years (working 7 days a week) just to maintain a middle class existence. And he lives in a town south of Madison, Wisconsin with a census around 10K.
  • The bird strikes are becoming a real problem with the population of Canada geese increasing 4-fold in the last 20 years. Think they’ll be eating a Christmas goose this year?
  • Bird detecting radar is available. The Air Force noticed a marked decrease – zero – in strikes at one of their bases in North Carolina. [see link below] They offered a unit to LaGuardia after the events of Jan 15th. Evidently they are very expensive. How much is one life worth in civil court? 155? And what about the domino effect when a plane has to return or make an emergency landing

Capt Sullenberger before Congress
First Officer Jeff Skiles before Congress
ATC Pat Harten before Congress
Sheila Dail, Donna Dent, Doreen Welsh before Congress

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