MIAMI — US Airways Flight 1549 landed on the Hudson River in New York City after a catastrophic bird strike five years ago today. The incident was later dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson” by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. To one passenger on board, this miraculous event was made up of more than just one miracle.
Billy Campbell, former President of Discovery Networks U.S. which includes TLC, Discovery, Animal Planet from 2002-2007, was seated in 25A on the Airbus A320, the second to last row. Billy was on his way to South Carolina to visit his family for the weekend, but a flock of geese had other plans for him. From his window seat, Billy watched as the left engine spit out fire and came to a halt moments later. He remembers the heroic flight attendants yelling “remain calm and everything’s fine.”
At this point, not even Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger and first officer Jeffrey Skiles knew what was coming next. “I’m not sure I will be making my original connection, but I should get to the beach in time for my favorite fried chicken dinner and sweet tea,” Billy said to himself. Moments later, it dawned on everyone on board what was about to happen. As Sullenberger uttered the words “brace for impact” over the speakers, Billy’s mind began to race.
Billy believes that everyone on board survived the “Miracle on the Hudson” because of twelve distinct miracles.
-The water temperature that day was 35 degrees, while the next day there was chunks of ice in the river.
-There had never been a successful water ditching with an aircraft of that siee where everyone survived.
-The crash happened at 3:30pm. Two hours later it would’ve been completely dark and Sullys’ depth perception would’ve been impaired. Additionally, inside the plane we would’ve been in complete darkness while trying to get out.
-At that moment, little barge traffic on Hudson River. More traffic and a landing would have been impossible.
-After blizzard conditions all morning long, the storm had cleared out and water was smooth as glass.
-Instead of breaking into pieces, the aircraft floated for 24 minutes before sinking.
-Water was rushing into cabin and it stopped at Bill’s neck just as he thought I would run out of air.
-Rush hour ferries were operating with max crew availability. Sitting in the raft in 16 degree weather much longer would’ve been disastrous.
-They happened to be in NYC where they are prepared for almost every emergency.
-The experienced crew had 3 extraordinary flight attendants all over age of 50
-The pilot was extraordinary – calm and confident, 57, most importantly a glider pilot with over 19,000 hours. He made all the right decisions that day.
-The planes wings were completely full of jet fuel which provided buoyancy. Typically pilots dump as much fuel as possible, but there just wasn’t the time this day.
Below is an hour long interview with Billy with Airways editor-in-chief Chris Sloan (Billy was Sloan’s boss at one time) as he recalls that fateful afternoon five years ago today.
The airplane, as we all know, went on to land successfully on the Hudson River without a single fatality. The Airbus A320 was dredged from the river and shipped to Charlotte, its original destination. The airplane now resides in the Carolina Aviation Museum, where passengers of Flight 1549 often visit to talk about their experiences. Billy intends to visit the airplane.