I know, it's just supremely irritating.Kanastrous wrote:Never seems to work. Whenever someone burbles at me about their 'miraculous' recovery, I always ask what about all the similarly afflicted people, for whom there was no 'miracle?' Does God just *like* you, better than them? and am invariably rewarded with a blank stare, a few seconds' silence, then the burble resumes.
Anyway, here's an antidote to that mentality:
From The Times Online:
Interesting that the aircraft pictured above was refurbished and continued to fly! I guess such water landings don't always result in a write-off after all. More interesting is that Boeings don't have the "ditch" button, according to this writer.January 16, 2009
Airmanship, not miracle, saved US Airways jet in New York
After air crashes, everyone usually jumps to conclusions and gets the story wrong. This is unlikely to be the case with US Airways Flight 1549, the Airbus which ditched in the Hudson River just off Manhattan's west side. The facts seem straightforward and the credit goes to extraordinary old-fashioned airmanship.
The flying world is full of admiration for the pilots who put a big, all-electronic airliner, down so softly on water that it stayed in one piece. Bored passengers are used to briefings on the "unlikely event of water landings", but in reality, big planes more often break up and sink quickly, killing many of their occupants.
Along with his first officer, Captain Chesley Sullenberger achieved a text-book 'dead stick' landing only three minutes after hitting a flock of birds as their Airbus A320 was was climbing low over northern New York City. I can imagine the picture well because I used to pilot light aircraft along the same low path over the George Washington Bridge and down the Hudson beside Manhattan.
Praise is also going to the three cabin crew who organised the evacuation of the 155 passengers. And there is credit for the French-based European Airbus firm for building a tough airliner. Among other things, unlike Boeings, the Airbus has an emergency "Ditch button", which closes vents and makes the fuselage more watertight. Airbus pilots have always been sceptical about the button, on the overhead panel. Today, they are saying today "Oh, so that's what it's for."
Here is what is known about an episode that will go down in flying lore. We do not know if Sullenberger or his co-pilot was flying the leg when the the Airbus left La Guardia, a difficult airport on the water's edge inside the borough of Queens. They were at 3,200 feet in the climb when they reported hitting large birds. These stopped one engine and severely dropped the power or killed the other one. When that happens, there is no-where to go but down.
At that moment, the aeroplane driver is no longer a systems manager. He or she has to forget the electronics and call on the most old-fashioned aviator's skills. A Dutch airline captain called Denkraai decribed it on the PRUNE pilots' network this morning: "What a nightmare. We sit there in our cockpits for years and years and nothing goes wrong. Then all of a sudden you have seconds to decide. I salute you sir, and your crew."
The US Airways plane had the good fortune to be under the command of an old-style stick-and-rudder pilot. Sullenberger, 58, is a former USAF fighter pilot and a man who lives for flying. He has 19,000 hours and among other things, he is also a glider instructor and he runs a company that advises on safety systems and crew procedures.
The pilots had two or three airports in potential gliding range, but from only 3,200 feet they could only glide a handful of miles, depending on the wind. Simply turning 90 degrees would cost them more than 1,000 feet. Captain Sullenberger decided that they would probably not be able to make Teterboro, the small airport on the New Jersey side of the Hudson (where I used to land). Everywhere is built-up and on the left were the dense high rise towers of Manhattan. The alternatives would have been trying to land on a highway or turn down the Hudson. Putting an airliner down at some 140 knots on busy roads would have been lethal so they chose the very long wet runway to their left.
The two pilots would have been flat out running through emergency procedures and configuring the plane for landing -- with flaps down to slow it, but wheels up (they only hinder in water). Just for the information, the plane can glide 2.5 nautical miles per 1,000 feet at an average descent rate of about 1,600 feet per minute. That meant that they had about two minutes once both engines were out.
When the "Fly-by-wire" A320 was first introduced in the 1980s, pilots dreaded the prospect of a powerless glide. Nothing physical connects them to the hydraulically-operated control surfaces on the wings and tail. The computers send their manual commands from a little side-stick and rudder pedals to the machinery. But the power apparently worked fine as they slowed the airliner on its glide. If both engines were completely dead, the juice would have come from the batteries and a Ram Air Turbine (a windmill that opens into the slipstream but is not much use at slow speeds). Perhaps they managed to start the Auxiliary Power Unit, the noisy internal turbine that normally provides power on the ground.
The computer's anti-stall system would have helped Captain Sullenberger slow the plane to the maximum. Flying by the seat of his pants, he would have flared it like a much smaller plane, pulling its nose up to let it settle in the edge of a stall at about 130 mph onto the water. Making things worse was a 10 knot tail-wind. At that speed water is like concrete. One of the motors and perhaps both, sheered off their pylons under the wings, as they are designed to do in a crash. That prevented the plane breaking. A passenger described the impact as no worse than a rear-end car collision.
Very few airliners have remained intact after ditching. Two exceptions were a Japan Airlines DC-8 [above] which came down off San Francisco airport in November 1968. It was recovered and flew on for years. Another involved an Arabian registered Boeing 707 cargo jet in Africa in 2000. The most famous airliner ditching occurred in November 1996 when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing was hijacked and came down off the Comoros islands [video below]. The plane, which had run out of fuel, caught a wing-tip and cartwheeled as it put down on a rough sea. Out of 175 on board, 50 survived.