Flight 1549 Audio: Miracle on the Hudson Flight Tapes, Transcript

Chesley Sully Sullenberger, pilot of US Airways Flight 1549

The F.A.A. has released Flight 1549 transcript and audio.  Hear the cockpit radio communications that preceded the dramatic crash landing of the US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, saving all 155 people aboard.

Miracle on the Hudson pilot Chesley B. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger’s calm voice is heard telling air traffic control that both engines are out in the Airbus SAS A320 plane and he must turn back or try to land somewhere. What stands out, at the end of the exchange between air traffic controllers and is his calm voice saying, when Teterboro Airport in New Jersey is cleared for an emergency landing, “We’re unable. We may end up in the Hudson.”

Here is a compilation of the final moments before the crash landing in a video report which you can see here.  You can also listen to the mp3 recordings and read transcripts of all of the in-flight communication on the F.A.A. Web site:  USAirways 1549 (AWE1549), January 15, 2009.

Video Link




The tapes are dramatic, providing a moment by moment account of the flight’s communications from the time it suffered a “double bird strike” to the time it glided down without engine power onto the chilly surface of the Hudson River just off Manhattan’s West Side.

The whole exchange takes less than two minutes. At 3:27:32 p.m., a scant 2 minutes and 32 seconds after the flight was cleared for takeoff by the tower at LaGuardia, Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III alerted air traffic control of trouble.

In a deep, calm voice, Captain Sullenberger said, “Ah, this is, uh, Cactus 1539. Hit birds. We lost thrust in both engines. We’re turning back towards La Guardia.”

His cadence is brisk, in the clipped syntax that is normal for communications between cockpits and controllers. If there was a sign of stress, it was that the captain had fumbled his call sign; “Cactus” is the correct sign for US Airways, but he was Flight 1549, not 1539 or 1529, as the flight was occasionally called, incorrectly, at various points in the tape.

US Airways Flight 1549 crash lands in Hudson River New York City, January 15, 2009

The controller replied instantly, “O.K., yeah, you need to return to La Guardia, turn left, heading of, uh, 220,” that is, further to the left. Captain Sullenberger acknowledged, and the controller, in a windowless radar room at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control in Westbury, L.I., used a land line to reach the control tower.

“Tower, stop your departures,” he said. “We got an emergency returning.”

His voice was urgent but not evidently stressed, until he, too, bungled the call sign, calling it “1529.” The controller turned his attention back to the airplane at 3:28:05 p.m.

US Airways Flight 1549 crash lands in Hudson River New York City, January 15, 2009

New York Tracon La Guardia Departure: Cactus 15-29, if we can get it to you, do you want to try to land runway 1-3?

AWE1549: We’re unable, we may end up in the Hudson.

Captain Sullenberger was in the unusual position of both flying an airliner and working the radio. Talking on the radio is usually the job of the other pilot, but in this case the first officer, Jeffrey B. Skiles, was running through an “engine restart checklist.”

US Airways Flight 1549 crash lands in Hudson River New York City, January 15, 2009

The controller offered him coordinates from his position to the runway. “Unable,” Captain Sullenberger responded, in standard pilot phraseology.

The other La Guardia runway was also available, the controller said, but Captain Sullenberger replied, “I am not sure if we can make any runway.” He asked about “anything in New Jersey, maybe Teterboro?” He was given a routing to that airport, but then replied simply, “We can’t do it.”

“We’re going to be in the Hudson,” the captain said.

Source: F.A.A. Releases Flight 1549 Tapes (The article continues.)
Photo sources:  Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. (SRM), CNET: Photo of Hudson River plane crash takes down TwitPic,  and Reuters.

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Flight 1549 Audio: Miracle on the Hudson Flight Tapes, Transcript Flight 1549 transcript pics pictures


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