FAA releases transcript of Flight 1549 ditching

February 5, 2009


Ever since the ditching of US Airways Flight 1549, pilots have applauded Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger for his successful Jan. 15 landing on the Hudson River, but some have asked why he didn’t try to land at La Guardia when a bird strike shortly after departure left him with two dead engines.

The FAA released audio and print transcripts of the event, which give pilots a glimpse at the decisions Sullenberger had to make in a matter of seconds.

Initially, he announced that the airliner had hit birds and requested to return to La Guardia.

“…we lost thrust in both engines. We’re turning back towards La Guardia,” the transcript says.

He was assigned a heading of 220-degrees to return to the airport.

After clearing the runways for the anticipated emergency landing, the controllers’ shock at the airliner losing both engines was evident. One controller asks “which engines,” and is quickly answered by another, “he lost thrust in both engines, he said.”

After being offered Runway 13, Sullenberger says, “We’re unable. We may end up in the Hudson.” He later replies, “unable” to a controller’s direction for left traffic to Runway 13.

At that point, Sullenberger considers Teterboro and the controllers work to get him in on Runway 1.

“We can’t do it,” he states.

“Okay, which runway would you like at Teterboro?” the controller responds.

“We’re gonna be in the Hudson,” Sullenberger replies in the last transmission from the aircraft on the New York Tracon transcript.

Less than three minutes transpired from Sullenberger’s initial call that he had lost thrust until his last transmission, according to the transcript.

After ditching the A320, Sullenberger and the crew successfully evacuated everyone on board.

Pilots interested in more details and radio transmissions can listen on the FAA’s Web site.