The Latest on USAIR Flight 1549; radio transmissions

Posted on 19. Jan, 2009 by in Featured


Minute by minute

3:24:54: US Airways Flight 1549 is cleared for takeoff.

3:25:51: Pilot tells the departure controller he is at 700 feet and climbing to 5,000. He is instructed to climb to 15,000.

3:27:01: Radar shows the plane intersects “primary targets” – probably a flock of birds – while climbing between 2,900 and 3,000 feet. The objects had not been on the departure controller’s radar screen.

3:27:32: Pilot reports to air traffic control: “Aaah, this is Cactus 1549. We hit birds. We lost thrust in both engines. We’re turning back towards LaGuardia.”

3:27:49: Controllers advise LaGuardia to stop departures. Tower officials are told there was a bird strike.

3:28:05: When asked if he wants to land at LaGuardia, the pilot responds, “We’re unable. We may end up in the Hudson.”

Communication follows over whether the plane can land at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, but the pilot says, “We can’t do it. … We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”

End verbal communication with the plane.

3:30:30: The plane touches down in the water. Radar and tower personnel notify the Coast Guard, which responds, “We launched the fleet.”

One flight attendant each opens the left and front doors.

Flight attendants put everyone in rafts. Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger scans plane several times.

Passengers open doors over the wings.
– Right slide opens automatically.
– Left slide has to be done manually.

Flight attendants give commands, “Leave everything. Come forward. Put your life vests on.”

A third flight attendant in the rear of the plane is injured.

A nice timeline, note the time from bird strike to splash down: three minutes. Not a lot of time to get anything done but position the aircraft to land and try to re-start the engines. The First Officer was attempting to re-start the engines as the Captain positioned the aircraft for ditching in the Hudson. Here is an excellent graphic of the flight path:


Take note of the maneuver just prior to flying over the river and landing. Obviously, the Captain was flying around an obstruction before he could make the Hudson.

I’ve had questions on the ditch switch. In fact I have read and heard some press accounts claim it is an automatic landing feature….ah, no. They really should not broadcast about what they know absolutely nothing about, however that will never change. All the ditch switch does is close some valves below the waterline to make the airplane float better, that’s it, no auto-magic.

No Responses to “The Latest on USAIR Flight 1549; radio transmissions”

  1. Rick 19 January 2009 at 16:57 #

    The obstruction on the manuever over the Cross Bronx Expressway…my guess it was the George Washington Bridge. He gave it a very wide berth.

  2. Chip 20 January 2009 at 08:26 #

    That seems likely; the track shows it pretty clearly. If memory serves the GW is a tall bridge.

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