Morpheus on… US Airways Flight 1549

Well whodathunk the old Airbus A320 could double as a flying boat then? Thanks to the “ditch-switch” which m’colleague Cy, over at “mydigest.” assures me instantly blocks up the kite’s orifices, it floats! (Last I heard, it was passing the Statue Of Liberty).

I’ll bet that would have been good news for its passengers, in the plane’s early days. Those who’d heard sacked pilots wandering dazed, telling anyone who’d listen, “I pulled the stick back…but it went DOWN…”

But now they’ve ironed the bugs out of the fly-by-wire computers – and the backup computers – and those that backup (etc.) – there are literally THOUSANDS of those things in our skies. Nice to know it takes more than a few birds to knock ’em OUT of the sky.

If it’s just a case of the engines getting clogged, while the plane becomes a GLIDER, it is still FLYABLE. Nice that the Hudson was nearby though – even if it WAS FREEZING.

In the past, like most people, I’ve always IGNORED the flight staff’s ROTE about “water landings” – figuring it was ROT. I mean, if a plane hits water at over 140 mph (any less and it has the aerodynamic qualities of a house-brick) it’ll break up, right? A date with Davy Jones’ Locker.

Which just goes to show all I know. Next time I’ll LISTEN.

I once had a VERY hairy landing at LHR in a MASSIVE storm (half of London was underwater) with a VICIOUS crosswind (thanks a lot for dumping the diagonal runways, Heathrow) and had a pilot I’d like to buy a DRINK.

The plane pendulated from side to side as we approached the ground. I knew the passengers were brown-trousered, but I was watching the FLIGHT ATTENDANTS. And when I saw THEY were tight-lipped, I KNEW we were in trouble.

I looked out of the window, waiting to see us burst out from the clouds. We never did. They stretched right down to the deck.

Then I saw concrete – just feet below us. The plane levelled out, waiting. As the bird swung right,  across Runway Ten Left,  it suddenly descended. The left wheel caught. As she swung back again, the right caught. At that split-second, the pilot SLAMMED on reverse-thrust, GLUEING the plane to terra-firma.

I and most of the other passengers broke the long silence with an ERUPTION of APPLAUSE. Now, applauding a soft landing is standard form in some countries – but in miserable England it’s UNHEARD of. The pilot HAD to know his skill had not gone unnoticed.

So while we may occasionally complain about ’em – “Did we land, or were we SHOT down?” – let’s hear it for the guy (or these days, frequently girl) up front.

And the next time YOU strap on an aeroplane, just hope the dude (or dudess) in the left seat is the same one who brought down MY flight – or US Airways Flight 1549.


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