Skiles Reflects On His Ring-Side Seat To An Historic Event
Jeff Skiles, First Officer of US Airways Flight 1549, "The Miracle on the Hudson," was the guest speaker for the AEA Annual Awards Luncheon on Friday, April 9th, during the Aircraft Electronics Association's 53rd annual International Convention & Trade Show, from April 7-10, in Orlando, FL -- he was also our guest for an intriguing interview shortly before that speech.
Skiles stepped into history on a bright, 20-degree afternoon in January 2009, as US Airways Flight 1549 rolled down New York La Guardia Airport's main runway with 155 passengers and crew, headed skyward for Charlotte, NC. Everything was normal until Skiles spotted a formation of Canada geese on the right side of the aircraft, seemingly headed directly toward them. Skiles, who was flying the plane manually, was relieved when the nose of the plane rose above the geese, but that relief was short-lived. A few seconds later, he heard four distinct "thunks" as the birds crashed into the engines of the Airbus A320. Both engines immediately failed. Skiles lost his instrument panel.
Captain Chesley Sullenberger took over flying the plane and lowered the nose to retain airspeed. Within 60 seconds, the pilots made the decision that returning to LaGuardia or diverting to Teterboro or Newark Airports was just too risky - they'd have to fly over densely populated areas and there was no guarantee they'd make it. So, surrounded by nothing but skyscrapers and neighborhoods, they decided to head to the only open, flat space available: the Hudson River. In his humble, Midwestern style, Skiles has criss-crossed the country explaining the key lessons of teamwork, adaptability, training and preparation, which he and his crewmates relied on that day, and relates these concepts to the daily lives of individuals and organizations. From the mechanics and the maintenance workers to the people who write the emergency protocols and the flight attendants, Skiles believes every level of the US Airways organization is responsible for the outcome on January 15, 2009.
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