Re-creation of Hudson River plane landing

Here's a takeoff to touchdown re-creation of the USAir flight that made an emergency landing in the Hudson river, with ATC radio transmissions. It's amazing how cool-headed the pilots and FAA people remain during the event.

US Airways Flight 1549 Reconstruction (Thanks, Lew!)


  1. I think I will play that every morning to give myself a sense of perspective and to remember that unbelievable things can be accomplished if you stay calm and on your game.

  2. The pilot kept saying “Hudson,” and the controller kept hearing, “please help me find a runway at an airport.”

    But yeah, no voices raised, no screams. It’s comforting.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with #1. I didn’t realize how fast that had all happened.

    It’s truly astounding how calm and clear everyone involved was. That pilot is wired with nerves of steel.

  4. And now the transcript from the cabin:


  5. The problem with the current “cult of the amateur” is that professionalism like this is lost. Years of training and experience were required for the crew and controller to handle this situation. That value needs to be recognized.

  6. I have joked about the pictures of people getting into rafts in an orderly fashion on the wings of floating planes in those stupid safety information cards for years. Never again.

  7. I didn’t really realize how much of a hero this pilot truly is until I heard/saw this. Wow.

  8. Bravo to the pilot and ATC.

    Now, also important and heretofore unmentioned…

    are those birds creepy or WHAT.

  9. @ #8 posted by Takuan

    “whutchew talkin bout? Who’s putting jets up with “amateur pilots”?”

    al-Qaeda? :/ (No more, thankfully)

  10. The sim looks alot like X-plane to me. Can any pros confirm or deny?

    I remember reading that the man behind X-plane almost had a bird strike when he was taking off in his plane – so he incorporated birds into the sim. There are deer too.

    This video is incredibly insightful. It is amazing what a short interval of time passed between take-off and the emergency landing. The ATC radio chatter makes it totally riveting.

  11. That really is amazing. I read in an interview with one of the pilot’s neighbour’s shortly after the event that they called him “a cool head”. Damn, they weren’t kiddin’.

    Mind you, that definitely is a character trait you’re going to want in your pilots and air traffic controllers, isn’t it? ;-) This is one of the most fascinating episodes of “Air Crash Investigation” that I’ve seen, and one of the parts I like best is in the re-enactment of the scene where the distressed plane is handed over to from Birmingham’s to Southhampton’s air traffic control, the nice man and Southhampton takes a moment to say “good morning” to the poor co-pilot, who is clearly not having the best day. I know it’s a re-enactment, but they’re taken from the original recordings – yet again, some very cool folks in the sky and on the ground that day.

  12. There is a little fear in their voices. The controller and pilot used the wrong flight numbers. At take-off pilot and controller call it “cactus 1549.” Right after the bird-strike the pilot calls it “cactus 1539”. The controller calls it “1529” to his supervisor and to the pilot. The controller corrects himself and calls it “cactus 1549”. Then after clearance at teterbourough airport he calls it “cactus 1529” again. It sounds like the controllers voice cracks when he is talking to flight “eagle 547” after he lost radar contact.

  13. @isopraxis

    Logo and end caption says this is from Scene Systems, which uses its own 3D simulation software.

  14. Truly heroic, nothing less. It’s good to know there are such people out there, it gives the world hope.

  15. #8 I was attempting making a broader point about the devaluation of professionals in modern culture. Clearly, I failed.

  16. #15 posted by Ned613

    RE: controller’s voice

    From what I heard, after the plane was in the water he texted his wife and basically said “had an accident, not okay”

    I’m not sure if he’s back to work yet, but he thought for sure there would be casualties.

    By the way, I apologize if my previous post was off-color. I hit “post” before my brain kicked in.

  17. Something isn’t quite right. When tower asks if he wants to go to titoborough, the pilot says yes. But the video has the plane lined up facing the river. I think the captain would have said “no” to titoborough if he was already lining up on the river.

    I was a little disappointed they didn’t show the s-turns the guy made to slow down. Just showed the path after the fact.

    Oh well.

  18. @ #21 posted by GregLondon

    Are you sure he made turns to slow down? Seems to me he’d want to keep as much speed on the airplane as possible to keep his glide slope nice and gentle.

  19. Very cool, but I was kinda hoping for a Riker-esque “Brace for impact!” Mash-up anyone?

  20. #3 posted by weeklyrob: “The pilot kept saying “Hudson,” and the controller kept hearing, “please help me find a runway at an airport.”

    I think the controller was just doing the only useful thing he could in the situation: find runways, give directions to them, and direct other planes as necessary.

    If the plane is crash-landing in the water the pilot has better information than the controller and the controller should probably just try not to distract him and keep the frequency open as much as possible.

    That last line from the pilot is spoken very quickly and it sounds like the controller just didn’t catch it. The context we have lets us pretty easily hear “were gonna be in the hudson”, but it is spoken very quickly.

  21. That video is not an actual representation of the time in the air. They were in the air closer to 5 minutes, not 2:38. Check out this article for the timeline of events. Shows that they were cleared for takeoff at around 3:25. Struck birds at 3:27. Touched down in the water at 3:30:30.

    Still amazing! But it seemed a lot of people above thought that was an actual representation of the time. It’s just showing the flight path.

  22. #25: Of course you’re right. In hindsight, knowing that the guy goes into the river, it’s obvious that’s what he’s gonna have to do.

    I didn’t mean at all that the controller was really doing something wrong.

    Incidentally, the pilot mentioned the Hudson earlier as well, but I think that was before saying he’d try for the other airport.

  23. My dad, a private pilot, told me a long time ago “find the youngest doctor and the oldest pilot you can”.

  24. I dunno, I saw the geese formation in that video, and all I could think about was…Pearl Harbor. I think the birds did this on purpose!

  25. what a tremendous, dangerous amount of bullshit came out of the control room, where very second counts, i think they should change their procedures or something

  26. @#23:

    > @ #21 posted by GregLondon

    > Are you sure he made turns to slow down? Seems to me he’d want to keep as much speed on the airplane as possible to keep his glide slope nice and gentle.

    No, you need to reduce to a minimum speed (specifically, just above an absolute minimum speed) to keep the ditching in the water as gentle as possible. Speed kills on something like this. You need an absolute minimum speed.

  27. Here’s a similarly calm Thomsonfly pilot reacting to a bird strike on take-off from Manchester.

  28. What I want to know is this: Why didn’t I hear the Imperial March when those bastard geese came into the picture?

  29. My father was an air traffic controller for 27 years.

    Yes, to everything said above. The emotional stability of cut diamonds, those folks.

    Now if only someone would indulge them with some modern friggin’ equipment.

  30. This is not real-time. The video is approximately two times normal speed, but the audio is real time.

    This gives the odd impression that the pilot was still negotiating for an alternative airport just prior to ditching, having already lined up for the Hudson.

  31. #38 Jack: “Why didn’t I hear the Imperial March when those bastard geese came into the picture?”

    I think Flight of the Valkyries would work better.

    No doubt about it, those geese were in strategic formations. They planned this…

  32. I’m impressed that the wings stayed on. That’s a lot of mass hitting the water. Time to take those filthy birds off the protected list. BANG!

  33. Global warming is HERE!! Notice how all of Westchester County has disappeared under a great expanse of gray-colored ocean?!

    (And I thought it would start at Battery Park or the Chelsea Piers.)

  34. I find unintentional hilarity in the final exchange between the pilot and ATC:

    — We’re gonna be in the Hudson.

    — I’m sorry. Say again, Cactus?

    You can almost hear the dissonance going on in ATC guy’s brain.

    Of course, I wouldn’t find it funny if things had turned out differently. Then it would be more of a “Roger, go at throttle up” kind of thing.

  35. I hate to be a buzzkill here, but the reason that everyone is shocked that everything happened so quickly is… it didn’t.

    The entirety of that video clip is 2:08. Per the FAA transcript (linked supra), Cactus 1549 contacted the TRACON at 2025:51 and the TRACON said “radar contact lost” exactly four minutes later at 2029:51.

    Entire parts of the conversation (e.g. “I am not sure if we can make any runway oh what’s over to our right anything in new jersey maybe teterboro”) are redacted from the clip.

    Given that Scene Systems is in the forensic reconstruction biz, if I were in management there I’d be hopping mad right about now at whoever managed creating that animation – while they did good eye candy not watching the clock is definitely a black eye for their credibility.


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