Miracle Flight; USAIR 1549

Posted on 22. Jan, 2009 by in Featured


If there is a common response from pilots, it is irritation at the use of miracle to describe the ditching of USAIR 1549. It was not an interruption of the laws of nature.

According to the Catholic definition: “wonders performed by supernatural power as signs of some special mission or gift and explicitly ascribed to God.”
Wikipedia:” A miracle is a sensibly perceptible interruption of the laws of nature, such that can only be explained by divine intervention, and is sometimes associated with a miracle-worker.”

A friend of mine years ago was giving military flight instruction to a foreign national; after simulating an engine failure in the H-1 (Army Helicopter) he directed his student to perform an auto-rotation.

I’m not a Helo-bubba so bare with me; basically it is a helicopters version of gliding. The aircraft uses gravity to accelerate toward the ground, which then causes the blades to be aerodynamically rotated. Once close to the ground the pilot puts full pitch on the blades, which continue to spin due to centrifugal force, to cushion the impact. I gather it is not easy and thus must be practiced often.

Back to the story; my friend was quite surprised by the response of his student. He looked at him and said “I like you, for you I will do an auto-rotation, but if it ever really happened I would not go against the will of God.” In that event, or if the crew of 1549 had sat back and crossed their arms, then that is a miracle. An experienced crew doing what they have been trained for is not. It be-little’s the efforts of the crew and the first responders to say the only reason anyone survived was a miracle.

The cosmos that swirl overhead are a miracle; each child born is a miracle (IMO). Highly experienced men and women performing, under extreme duress, the duties they were trained for is not a miracle. It is courage.

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