US Air Flight 1549

by John Delach

How does Tom Hanks hit one home run after another without ever striking out? He currently stars in, Sully, a brilliant movie that tells the story of Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger who landed his crippled US Air A-320 on the Hudson River after a bird strike shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport.


This is the actor who brilliantly portrayed a marooned businessman in, Castaway; James Lovell, the astronaut in command of ill-fated, Apollo 13; Captain Philips, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates, and James Donovan who defended the Soviet spy, Rudolph Able, and negotiated his exchange for Francis Gray Powers in, A Bridge of Spies.  Brilliant performances all.


This film is a credit to Mr. Hanks, his fellow actors and the director, Clint Eastwood. They interpreted a flight that lasted only 208 seconds and turned it into a riveting film covering an event we all know in advance has a happy ending.


The time frame of the actual flight is incredibly brief. Every decision Sully Sullenberger made had to be the right. Even then he had to do something never done before; ditch a commercial jet without any loss of life.


Here is an abbreviated record of the actual dialogue from the cockpit. (Please note: the code for this US Airways flight was Cactus 1549)


15:24:56: (Tower) Cactus 1549 clear for takeoff.


15:25:33: (Cockpit) V one, Rotate. (Take off)


15:25:45: (Tower) Cactus 1549 contact New York departure, good day.


15:26:00:  (New York departure radar:)

Contact and maintain 1,500. (Feet)


15:26.37 (Pilot to co-pilot) Uh, what a view of the Hudson today.


15:27:11: (Cockpit) Birds. (Numerous geese strike the airplane.)


15:27:15: (Cockpit:) We got rol-back of ‘em rolling back. (Both engines are disabled.)


15:27:23: (Cockpit) My aircraft. (Sully takes control of the airplane from his co-pilot..)


15:27:32: (Sully) Mayday, mayday, mayday. Uh, this is Cactus 1549, hit birds, we’ve lost thrust in both engines, we’re turning back toward LaGuardia.


15:28:05: (LaGuardia tower) Cactus 1549, if we can get it for you, do you want to try to land on runway one three?


15:28:10: (Sully to tower) We’re unable. We may end up in the Hudson.


15:29:11: (Over the intercom) This is the captain: brace for impact.


15:29:33: (Sully to tower) We’re gonna be in the Hudson.


15:30:16 to 15:30:23: (Cockpit exchange)

Hundred and fifty knots.

Got flaps two, you want more?

No, let’s stay at two.

Got any ideas?

Actually not.


15:30:24: (Sully to his co-pilot) We’re gonna brace.


15:30:43: End of recording


Two hundred and eight seconds, 194 from the bird strike to ditching in the Hudson, or in plain English, 3 minutes and 14 seconds. How many prayers can you say in 3 minutes and 14 seconds?


US Air 1549 carried a crew of five and 150 passengers. One hundred and fifty-five souls went into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 and 155 souls lived to tell about it. The miracle on the Hudson.


The story is real but it is Clint Eastwood’s clever use of time and Tom Hanks’ faithful portrayal Sully Sullenberger that makes this movie soar.