Flight 1549 and the Hudson: survival in an urban environment

On January 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 (A320) ditched into to the Hudson River after having both engines fail due to ingestion of Canadian Geese in both of its engines. All passengers and crew survived. This was a miracle that was in part thanks to excellent piloting skills of Capitain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the proximity of numerous ships that came to the aid of the slowly sinking aircraft within minutes of crash landing. The air temperature at the time was 20 degrees F (-7 degrees C) and the water temperature was icy cold. Undoubtedly, prolonged exposure to the elements would have caused numerous fatalities.

A similar ditching occured in 1996, when an Ethiopian Boeing 767-200ER had to put down in the Indian Ocean off the island of Comoros. That accident, while it occured in relatively warm waters, close to a tourist resort, cost the lives of 125 of the 175 passengers and crew on board. (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Airlines_Flight_961). A short video of the crash is also available on www.aircrash.org.

Burnelli floats in case of water landing
Burnelli floats in case of water landing

Since the 1940s an aircraft design exists that makes aviation crashes more survivable – a Burnelli.

In its December 1946 issue, Mechanix Illustrated, in an article entitled “Something New on the Wing” stated:

“In addition to their hitherto unapproached stability, 80 passenger ships of the new 1946 design, … are designed to descend on the water with complete safety and travel for days under their own power as full-fledged sea-going boats. This feat is the more remarkable in consideration of the fact that they are strictly land planes.

Under any circumstances necessitating a landing at sea, passengers of this type of ultra modern sky hotel lose none of the comfort and luxury that they enjoyed in the air. A specially designed mechanism, which cannot be operated in flight, is used to disengage the wings from the fuselage section once the ship is on the water. Once this is done, even a stormy sea holds no terrors for the occupants of the safety-sealed fuselage with its complete set of navigation instruments and its diesel-driven underwater propeller. In short, a landing at sea is not even an emergency for this newest of passenger aircraft.”

Why do aircraft manufacturers, airlines, the FAA and the NTSB continue to subject passengers and crew to aircraft designs that are inefficient, dangerous (low survivability in case of an accident) and outdated when a superior type of aircraft exists? Why is the Burnelli Company prevented from competing in what is allegedly a free economy?

A complete expose about Burnelli and it’s history is available at http://www.aircrash.org


1. Mechanix Illustrated – Dec 1946 – Something New on the Wing.PDF full article.

2. Full-size copy of floating Burnelli seen at top of this page.

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