Sully Sullenberger performs Miracle on the Hudson - HISTORY
Year
2009

Sully Sullenberger performs Miracle on the Hudson

On this day in 2009, a potential disaster turned into a heroic display of skill and composure when Captain Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III safely landed the plane he was piloting on New York City’s Hudson River after a bird strike caused its engines to fail. David Paterson, governor of New York at the time, dubbed the incident the “miracle on the Hudson.” Sullenberger, a former fighter pilot with decades of flying experience, received a slew of honors for his actions, including an invitation to Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration and resolutions of praise from the U.S. Congress.

About a minute after taking off from New York’s La Guardia Airport on January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 collided with one of the aviation industry’s most threatening foes: a flock of geese. Crippled by the bird strike, both engines lost power and went quiet, forcing Captain Sullenberger to make an emergency landing. When air traffic controllers instructed the seasoned pilot to head for nearby Teterboro Airport, he calmly informed them that he was “unable” to reach a runway. “We’re gonna be in the Hudson,” he said simply, and then told the 150 terrified passengers and five crew members on board to brace for impact.

Ninety seconds later, Sullenberger glided the Airbus 320 over the George Washington Bridge and onto the chilly surface of the Hudson River, where it splashed down midway between Manhattan and New Jersey. As flight attendants ushered passengers into life jackets, through emergency exits and onto the waterlogged wings of the bobbing jet, a flotilla of commuter ferries, sightseeing boats and rescue vessels hastened to the scene. One survivor suffered two broken legs and others were treated for minor injuries or hypothermia, but no fatalities occurred. After walking up and down the aisle twice to ensure a complete evacuation, Sullenberger was the last to leave the sinking plane.

In October 2009, the now-famous pilot, known to his friends as “Sully,” published a book about his childhood, military background and career entitled “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.” He retired from US Airways after 30 years in the airline industry on March 3, 2010, and has since devoted his time to consulting, public speaking and advocating for aviation safety.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Biafra surrenders to Nigeria

The Republic of Biafra, a breakaway state of eastern Nigeria, surrenders to Nigeria after three years of costly fighting.In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, the Muslim Hausas in northern Nigeria began massacring the Christian Igbos in the region, ...read more

“American Pie” hits #1 on the pop charts

On January 15, 1972, “American Pie,”, an epic poem in musical form that has long been etched in the American popular consciousness, hits #1 on the Billboard charts.The story of Don McLean’s magnum opus begins almost 13 years before its release, on a date with significance ...read more

Elizabeth crowned queen of England

Two months after the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary I of England, Elizabeth Tudor, the 25-year-old daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, is crowned Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey in London.The two half-sisters, both daughters of Henry VIII, had a stormy ...read more

Qaddafi becomes premier of Libya

Muammar al-Qaddafi, the young Libyan army captain who deposed King Idris in September 1969, is proclaimed premier of Libya by the so-called General People’s Congress.Born in a tent in the Libyan desert, Qaddafi was the son of a Bedouin farmer. He attended university and the ...read more

Martin Luther King Jr. born

On January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a Baptist minister. King received a doctorate degree in theology and in 1955 helped organized the first major protest of the African-American civil rights movement: the successful Montgomery Bus ...read more

Packers face Chiefs in first Super Bowl

On this day in 1967, at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the first-ever world championship game of American football.In the mid-1960s, the intense competition for players and fans between the National Football League (NFL) and the ...read more

Kennedy says U.S. troops are not fighting

Asked at a news conference if U.S. troops are fighting in Vietnam, President Kennedy answers “No.” He was technically correct, but U.S. soldiers were serving as combat advisers with the South Vietnamese army, and U.S. pilots were flying missions with the South Vietnamese Air ...read more

Packers beat Chiefs in first Super Bowl

On January 15, 1967, the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL) smash the American Football League (AFL)’s Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10, in the first-ever AFL-NFL World Championship, later known as Super Bowl I, at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.Founded in 1960 as ...read more

The utopian Amana colony embraces capitalism

After nearly a century of cooperative living, the utopian Amana colonists of Iowa begin using U.S. currency for the first time.The wide-open spaces of the West have always appealed to visionary reformers attempting to start new societies. Among others, the Mormons in Utah, the ...read more

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is finished

On this day in 1831, Victor Hugo finishes writing Notre Dame de Paris, also known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Distracted by other projects, Hugo had continually postponed his deadlines for delivering the book to his publishers, but once he sat down to write it, he completed ...read more

Last episode of soap opera Santa Barbara airs

“The worst program on television–maybe ever…” one reviewer dubbed NBC’s daytime soap opera Santa Barbara upon its debut in July 1984. Critics soon changed their tune about the show, however, and it would run for more than eight years, garnering numerous Daytime Emmy Awards, ...read more

Molasses floods Boston streets

Fiery hot molasses floods the streets of Boston on this day in 1919, killing 21 people and injuring scores of others. The molasses burst from a huge tank at the United States Industrial Alcohol Company building in the heart of the city.The United States Industrial Alcohol ...read more

Hill Street Blues begins run

On this day in 1981, Hill Street Blues, television’s landmark cops-and-robbers drama, debuts on NBC. When the series first appeared, the police show had largely been given up for dead. Critics savaged stodgy and moralistic melodramas,and scoffed at lighter fare like Starsky and ...read more