It’s been ten years since Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger managed to miraculously land a US Airways on the Hudson River in what has since become known as the “Miracle On The Hudson.”
Though it’s been a decade, the audio from Sullenberger’s cockpit is still as harrowing to listen to as ever.
On the afternoon of January 15, 2009, US Airways flight 1549 collided with a flock of Canadian geese, knocking out both of the plane’s engines. Realizing that he could not make it back to LaGuardia Airport, former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Sullenberger was able to save the lives of everyone onboard the plane by landing in the Hudson River.
Though no lives were lost in the incident, it is still chilling to listen to the cockpit audio.
“This is Cactus 1549. Hit birds. We’ve lost thrust in both engines. We’re turning back to LaGuardia,” Sullenberger tells the air traffic controller, calmly adding, “We may end up in the Hudson.”
The air traffic controller responds by saying that Sullenberger is cleared to make an emergency landing at LaGuardia, but the captain replies that he is “unable.” The controller then says that the flight can land at nearby Teeterboro airport in New Jersey, but Sullenberger responds by saying, “We can’t do it. We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”
“Cactus 1549, radar contact is lost,” the recording chillingly ends.
In a second recording, the controller calls in emergency services.
“Get me a police department helicopter . . . right now,” he can be heard saying. “You get anybody. You send them right to the Lincoln Tunnel. We had a cactus Airbus go down in the water . . . He went down in the river [up near] the Intrepid.”
Now 67, Sullenberger has since been hailed as a hero, becoming arguably the most famous pilot in the world. Initially, he had a hard time dealing with the hero label.
“I resisted the H word initially,” he said in 2016. “But I certainly have grown to understand people’s need to feel the way they feel about this event and, by extension, about me.”
Sullenberger remains in touch with many of the passengers that he saved to this day.
“I never had any extraneous thoughts in those few seconds that we had. I didn’t allow myself to and I didn’t have any inclination to. I never thought about my family. I never thought about anything other than controlling the flight path and solving each problem in turn until, finally, we had solved them all,” Sullenberger added on the ten year anniversary. “I think about not only what we did but what everybody else did. All the pieces had to come together. This group of strangers had to rise to the occasion and make sure that they saved every life.”