It’s amazing what people sometimes say when looking back at something with the benefit of hindsight. Sometimes, you wonder if those people stopped to think, if only for a few minutes.
Last week, the NTSB (USA) issued its report on US1549, the ‘Miracle On The Hudson’. The report includes information about emergency simulations which were flown by experienced aviators, including an Airbus test pilot. These simulated flights were done Airbus HQ in Toulouse. Interestingly, four out of four attempts to return to the closest available airport runway (La Guardia) were successful, according to the safety board’s summary. There were nine additional simulated attempts to land at La Guardia, either at different runways or under a scenario in which the plane was more severely disabled. Of those, three were successful.
So does this make it less of a miracle ? Hardly. Hence it is difficult to understand some of the negative press which picked up on these simulated flight results. Simulated training is pretty realistic and all, but it does not full reflect the real world, the pressures, the time lag and the fact that things might well be worse than one realises.
In his book, Captain Sullenberger wrote “I had to be certain we could make it,” because “it would rule out every other option” and could kill “who knows how many people on the ground.” Quite right. had he continued and tried to land at La Guardia, who knows what might have happened. There would be plenty who would not have likely lived to tell the tale of what happened that fateful day.
Those who wish to criticise and throw stones at the decision to ditch in the Hudson with the benefit of hindsight should give pause and think about their words. Sometimes it is better to say nothing – si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses.