05 February 2009

This makes me sick to my stomach

The FAA has released the transcript and the audio of the ATC communications from the flight which landed in the Hudson.  

"Tower stop your departures we got an emergency returning."

"Who is it?"

"It's 1529. He ah bird strike. He lost all engines. He lost the thrust in the engines. He is returning immediately.

"Cactus 1529 which engines."

"He lost thrust in both engines, he said."

"Got it."

"Cactus 1529 if we can get it to you, do you want to try to land on runway one three?"

"We're unable. We may end up in the Hudson."

The good bit starts about eight minutes in.  The thing that just blows me away is putting myself in the seat of that controller.   He just lost one of his planes.  He knows that 200 people just fell out of the sky, and the massive loss of life that usually goes with that.   And he just keeps doing his job without a hiccup, sequencing and vectoring the other planes without betraying how much he absolutely must be freaking out inside.   That's professionalism.    I know how to handle stress and keep doing your job -- have someone die on you and then go to see the next hangnail.   I do it all the time, and I am practiced at it.    The difference is that I only have one patient at at time die.  Also, most controllers will go their entire career without losing a plane, let alone a commercial jet.

There were a lot of heroes that day, and not all of them were on flight 1529.


  1. The difference is, no matter how that situation ended, it wasn't going to be the controller's fault. Tough job, sure, but more like a 911 operator than a firefighter and more like a helpful administrator in bed control opening up a few tele beds than an ER doc.

  2. scalpel, I don't think that is accurate at all. I'm not in the aviation or medical fields, but have great respect for both. The controller was resonsible for maintaining the seperation of a bunch of other aircraft, with hundreds (thousands?) of people on boad. If there had been a midair collision between two other planes, you can bet that it would have been his fault. I see this as more like triage. He was talking to someone, now they are (as far as he knows) dead and he needs to do his job and treat the people who are still there.

  3. speaking of air traffic controllers... I'm all for teaching with simulators rather than plywood planes and masking tape.



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