An Airbus A320, US Airways Flight 1549, loses thrust soon after takeoff. The pilot has no choice but take a one-in-a-thousand chance, and manages to land into the Hudson River without a single fatality.

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Episode credited cast:
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Narrator (voice)
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Patrick Stevenson ...
G. Wallace Pidgeon ...
Clay Presley (as Wallace Pidgeon)
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Wendii Fulford ...
Flight Attendant
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Robert Benzon
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Harold Reichel
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Mo Amin ...
Himself - Photographer (Segment: Ditching) (archive footage)
Jeffrey Skiles ...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
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An Airbus A320, US Airways Flight 1549, loses thrust soon after takeoff. The pilot has no choice but take a one-in-a-thousand chance, and manages to land into the Hudson River without a single fatality.

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7 March 2011 (UK)  »

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Celebrity.
10 September 2016 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

This is an especially interesting episode because it deals with far more than crashes and piloting skill. It poses questions about the nature of celebrity.

There are more than 100 people aboard the Airbus that takes off from LaGuardia Airport, smacks into a flight of birds, losing both engines, and then is expertly landed in the Hudson River by Captain Sullenberger, who is hailed as a hero. The event is a world-wide sensation. A full-length feature film starring Tom Hanks as the captain has just been released.

There's not much mystery. Everyone knows more or less what happened. The landing was caught on more than one videocamera and rescue vessels reached the floating airplane within minutes.

But -- a though experiment. The airplane isn't flying over New York City in view of millions of people and hundreds of cameras. It's just taken off from the airport at Turtle Lake, North Dakota. It hits a flock of birds and Captain Sullenberger expertly lands the disabled airplane on a remote stretch of the Missouri River. Boats quickly pick up the passengers. Not a sensation at all, but a lucky break for everyone involved. No feature film, no Tom Hanks, though.

I was an operator at a Coast Guard radio station on Sweeney Ridge just outside San Francisco when some Morse code suddenly came ripping over one of the speakers. I wasn't paying attention but the watch supervisor read the whole thing immediately, "Stand by for possible ditching." The day that followed was hectic. A Boeing Stratoliner had been disabled half way between Honolulu and San Francisco and, after circling for hours to drain fuel, was expertly ditched by Captain Ogg in the heaving swells of the Pacific Ocean, with everyone surviving and with the Coast Guard cutter Ponchartrain standing by. The ship was necessarily some distance from the landing path, the foam that the ship had laid down in an attempt to reduce the sea, and the landing itself. There was only one movie camera available to record the event and the images were blurry. Except for the absence of any threat to a city, it had all the drama of the Airbus crash but no movies followed. It was just a rather exciting but still routine news item in the media.

In no way do I demean Captain Sullenberger's expertise. I've crash landed in the Atlantic myself and it's all a horrifying experience. That "Sully" could speak at all was a marvelous achievement. But I find the relationship between videocameras, the media, the personalities involved, and the event to be problematic. Somebody ought to do some research.

"Sully" is the perfect subject for a heroic tale like this. It's a perfectly dramatic narrative. But suppose it weren't? It was James Thurber who wrote the story, "The Greatest Man in the World," about a heroic aviator named Smurch who became a much lauded public figure, whisked to an interview with the president, but was such a selfish and stupid goof that the president of the United States had him thrown out of a high window to his death, rather than present him to the public.


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