Pilot Passenger Recounts 1549 Drama

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

An American Airlines pilot who was aboard US Airways Flight 1549 says she heard the "thumps" of what she assumed were bird strikes, smelled burned flesh and braced for an impact that ended up "no worse than a carrier landing." Susan O'Donnell, a Boeing 767 first officer for American, was a "jumpseat passenger" on 1549, seated in first class after identifying herself to the crew. In an account written for the Allied Pilots Association, O'Donnell describes her experiences in detail on that storied flight. "I believed the impact would be violent but survivable, although I did consider the alternative," she wrote.

O'Donnell said her fellow passengers remained calm through the incident, which began with the "thumps" and which she believed would end with an emergency landing back at LaGuardia Airport. "Obviously we weren't returning to LGA, and I could see enough out the window to realize we'd be landing in the river," she said. As the flight attendants repeated the bracing instructions, O'Donnell joined the rest of the passengers in crossing her forearms against the back of the seat in front of her and pressing her head against them."There was a brief hard jolt, a rapid decel and we were stopped. It was much milder than I had anticipated. If the jolt had been turbulence, I would have described it as moderate."