NTSB Releases "Miracle" Report

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In its final look at last year's ditching on the Hudson by US Airways Flight 1549, the NTSB concluded on Tuesday it was not only the skill of the crew but a slew of factors that contributed to the positive outcome. Passengers were lucky that the visibility was good and winds were calm; the Airbus A320 was equipped with rafts and life vests, which weren't required for that flight; the cabin crew did a great job expediting the evacuation; and the proximity of rescuers was key in preventing fatalities after the airplane hit the cold water. "If even a single element had changed, the ditching could have ended not as a miracle but as a tragedy," said NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman. "The heroism of the flight crew was a necessary, but not sufficient, element." The board found plenty of things that could have gone better, listing 35 safety recommendations that call for better design of evacuation slides and life-vest stowage compartments, more precise engine monitors, and stricter bird-strike testing for jet engines.

Other issues addressed by the board's investigation include bird-mitigation efforts near airports, crew training in ditching procedures, and the design and content of emergency checklists. "What's important here is how to protect future passengers and help future flight crews should they end up in a situation like this," said Hersman. Four passengers and a flight attendant were seriously hurt in the accident. Brace positions may have contributed to some of the shoulder injuries, the board said, and Airbus has agreed to redesign a floor beam that broke, gashing the leg of a flight attendant. One passenger who held a 10-month-old child on her lap during the flight, as is allowed by the FAA, later said she now believes it's not a safe practice. The board members didn't include that issue in their safety recommendations this week, but said they will address the matter soon, according to the New York Times.

AVweb's Paul Bertorelli recently met up with Flight 1549 First Officer Jeff Skiles for a video interview; click here to watch.