January 15, 2009
Birds!
Posted by Gordon Smith

A flock of birds apparently brought the plane down, and it landed safely in the Hudson River.

Usair

More photos.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that the passengers -- who are all safe, albeit with some minor injuries -- were lucky this incident didn't happen in Germany ...

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Comments (3)

1. Posted by NonVoxPop on January 15, 2009 @ 20:45 | Permalink

That second video is SO awesome. Thanks.
On the first pic, though, I don't know how people can stand to fly anymore. The fam and I went from the Midwest to Disneyland last spring, flying American, and it sucked. Shaky planes, weird creaking noises, the works. Then over the next few days they started canceling flights to upgrade wiring. Absent some valium, I won’t be seeing Europe, I guess.


2. Posted by Fred Tung on January 16, 2009 @ 5:15 | Permalink

Wow. The pilot who landed that plane and the crew are heroes. Landing a jet (a) in the water (b) with no engines (c) without breaking it up into pieces is just a phenomenal feat--and with no casualties! Amazing!

A jet is aerodynamically very different from a glider, which gets all of its lift from the wings. By comparison, a jet is more like a rocket ship, where the lift comes from the thrust of the engines. So when the engines die, no lift! The US Airways jet was an Airbus A320, which has a glide ratio of 18--it can glide 18,000 feet for each 1,000-foot drop in altitude. By contrast, a glider could have a glide ratio of 60.

The other big problem with landing a jet in the water is that they're built to fly fast, not slow. So trying to "settle" a jet in the water with no damage to the plane or loss of life is nearly impossible. An A320 cruises at well over 400 knots/hr--in the neighborhood of 500 mph. Its control surfaces are designed to control the plane at those high speeds, and depend on having lots of airflow over those surfaces. A water landing, by contrast, requires that the plane be flying as slowly as possible at impact. That means basically at "stall" speed. If you go below stall speed, there's not enough air flowing over the wings to generate enough lift (remember Bernoulli's principle from high school physics?) to keep the plane from dropping like a rock. Stall speed for an A320 is over 100 mph--slow for a jet but pretty fast if you're trying to avoid breaking human bones in a crash. And at that speed, the controls are very "mushy." They're not very responsive because there is so little airflow over the control surfaces.

So the pilot is trying to do several things with the plane that it just wasn't designed to do. He's flying it WAY too slow, but fast enough so that it won't drop like a stone. He's trying to keep the wings level and the nose up, so that he can put the round smooth surface of the belly down first. Otherwise, the plane breaks apart on impact. And all the controls feel like MUSH. Not to mention the fact that the A320 engines are mounted under the wings. So those bad boys are dragging in the water almost as soon as the belly hits.

And then imagine the pandemonium in the cabin as it begins to fill with water and submerge. The crew got every single passenger--150 total--out safely.

In most water landings, it's easier to count the survivors than the casualties. Here, 100% survival rate, with only minor injuries. That's a miracle. What a tremendous job by that captain and crew!


3. Posted by Rachael on January 19, 2009 @ 8:36 | Permalink

Thanks for the information...I bookmarked your site, and I appreciate your time and effort to make your blog a success!

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