Cover Story: Lessons learned from Flight 1549

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - U-S Airways passengers flying from New York to Charlotte didn't think they'd be riding with a celebrity today.  Captain Sully Sullenbuerger, back in the cockpit on Thursday, almost nine months after that incredible splash landing in New York City's Hudson River.  In our Cover Story, PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson answers what's changed since that January accident.

It was dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson" and it's truly no understatement..

A spectacular river landing.. and no one died.  All 155 on board survived.

Were the same thing to happen again.. the same outcome not guaranteed.

At hearings last June conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board.. NTSB revealed it conducted simulations of water landings in a powerless jet.. such as Flight 1549.

Out of 12 attempts by four pilots.. only one was able to land soft enough to meet federal standards.

Capt. Sully Sullenberger had been a licensed glider pilot for more than 30 years.. pilots say he knew how to bring the US Airways Airbus 320 to a safe landing.

"The public has been made aware and Congress has been made aware that we have some issues that we need to address in the future," says US Airways pilot Capt. James Ray.

Sullenberger and his first officer had years of experience under their belts.. but that's not always the case at all airlines.

Pilots are lobbying Congress to rewrite the rules requiring airlines to raise the minimum qualifications for pilots.

James Ray is with the US Airways pilots union.

"While training may be good..there is no substitue for any professional more so than experience."

Prior to January's splash landing airlines didn't require pilots to train in the flight simulator on how to ditch a jet on the water.

Whether that's a recomendation the NTSB will make in its final report.. which is expected sometime next year.. no one's saying right now.

Airlines and airports.. like Charlotte Douglas are more aware now of watching out for birds and other wildlife that may impede airplanes.

Of four major incidents with birds since the 1960s.. this is the only crash that did not result in any deaths.

Some are suggesting airplanes need to be equippped with devices that repel or warn birds.

Much like the systems airports have on the ground.

NTSB focusing on how jets are designed to withstand water landings and whether those designs are adequate.  The fuselage ruptured on impact.

Additionally, there did not appear to be enough room in the available life rats for all the passengers and crew.

NTSB final report is expected out sometime next year.