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February 05, 2009

"We're Going To Be In The Hudson"

The recodings of transmissions between Flight 1549 and air traffic control (as well as conversations between controllers) were released today.

And yeah, Sullenberger sounds as cool as you expect.

Below the fold, the recording and for those who don't speak air traffic control, an explanation of what you are hearing .

What you hear first is the LaGuardia departure controller (LGA) give the flight a routine heading command. Right after that Sullenberger announces the bird strike, loss of thrust in both engines and his intention to return to LaGuardia. LGA then and gives Sullenberger a heading to get back to the airport. After that the departure controller calls the tower controller to stop all take offs and informs him to expect the flight to return.

LGA offers a couple of different runway options and Sullenberger announces he’s not going to make it back to LaGuardia (“unable’). The controller then says, “what do you need to land”. This is his way of saying…”you tell me where you are going and we’ll make it happen”.

LGA then offers another runway at LaGuardia and Sullenberger comes back with a question about another airport, Teterboro in NJ. The LGA controller confirms Teterboro is off to the right and gets on the landland to Teterboro to let them know an emergency may be heading that way. Within a second that controller accepts what’s about to happen, confirms the emergency, agrees to the runway LGA asks about and presumably goes about clearing his airspace, runways and gets the crash crew up and out to the runway.

The LGA controller relays the Teterboro options to the crew. Sullenberger then says ‘we’re going to be in the Hudson’. The LGA controller doesn’t quite hear it or understand what Sullenberger means when he says he can’t make it. Then the controller does what he supposed to do…give him options and keep out of his way.

At that point they lose communications but the LGA controller calls in the blind with an option for Newark but by then it’s not going to happen.

Interestingly, note the LGA controller is still working his regular traffic. The other pilots can hear all of this, they know what’s up and maintain an economy of radio traffic.

When I was flying regularly (just little Cessnas) I heard two emergencies over the radio in real time. It always amazes me how calm everyone stays. It’s also
incredible how everyone pulls together in these cases. There are literally no rules once a pilot or controller declares an emergency. You can do anything you need to get on the ground as safely as possible, all the regulations go out the window.

Pilots often complain about controllers but when the shit hits the fan like this, they often do an amazing job of providing resources and options for a pilot. While the LGA departure controller we hear on the recording ultimately couldn’t offer much, he deserves a pat on the back, if not more, for staying calm, offering resources and coordinating the initial ground response.

Just another link in the chain that worked that day.

digg this
posted by DrewM. at 08:33 PM

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