The FAA has released the audio of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s courageous landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River – and the tapes reveal a heroic set of decisions made literally in split-seconds.
“This is Cactus 1539, hit birds, we lost thrust in both engines, we’re heading back to LaGuardia,” Sullenberger is heard telling a flight controller in the recording.
“Do you want to try to land runway one three?” the controller responded.
“We’re unable, we may end up in the Hudson,” Sully said in return – just 29 seconds after reporting the bird strike, realizing already the plane would not be able to able to make it back to the airport.
“What’s over to our right, anything in New Jersey? Maybe Teterboro?” he asked next, referring to another airport.
“Do you want to try and go to Teterboro?” the flight controller asked.
“Yes,” Sully said – but 31 seconds later, the captain told air traffic control his plan, which would ultimately save all 155 on board. It would be his last communication with air traffic control.
“We can’t do it,” he said. “We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”
“It was very quiet as we worked, my co-pilot and I. We were a team,” he said. “But to have zero thrust coming out of those engines was shocking – the silence.”
He felt “calm on the outside, turmoil on the inside,” he added.
And while many have thanked him for his calm under fire, in an excerpt from his “60 Minutes” interview, he told Katie that the first responders, who helped passengers out of the plane as it sank into the river, are the ones he would praise.
“Thank you seems totally inadequate,” he said. “I have a debt of gratitude that I fear I may never be able to repay.”
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