Flight 1549 Reenactment

*NEW* YouTube video version (lower resolution than in Google Earth, of course, and not interactive like in Earth): Re-creation on YouTube


Download the Google Earth KML files
To experience this reenactment, you will need to install Google Earth 5.0. This will let you not only experience the reenactment, but go back and interact with it. You can import the reference document and look at the flight from many different angles, and you can see what the pilot would have seen when looked back at La Guardia Airport.

Download the Flight 1549 KMZ file. When you open the file, be sure to double-click on the "Play me!" touring icon. Listen for "Cactus 1549." I recommend you turn on the layers Terrain and 3D Buildings, and turn off all other layers.

Download Google Earth 5.0
Download the flight path KML file. Useful for exploring the flight path on your own.
Download the long version. This is approximately one hour long and contains audio from the first time the flight ("Cactus 1549") is mentioned to the end of the FAA recordings. Take-off occurs at about minute 27. (see technical notes for details on the audio)
A video version of this reenactment is available, but given that it is 130MB in size, I will send you the link upon request.

US Air flight 1549 garnered international attention following its successful emergency landing in the Hudson River. The media quickly seized upon the moniker "Miracle on the Hudson" as a way of sensationalizing the terrific work that was done that day.

Meanwhile, some bloggers and commentators have gone to the opposite extreme. They have posted opinions that the pilot did a terrible job and should have been able to land at one of the airports available to him.

This reenactment provides a new look at what happened on that flight. I believe it shows that no miracle happened that day. Instead, highly trained personnel in the air and on the ground responded to a situation that none of them anticipated. Decisions were made quickly, with only seconds to assess the aircraft's performance and consider the alternatives. Indeed, much of the credit can go to many other people, from the engineers who designed a plane that could withstand such a landing to the technicians who planned the pilot's training program. And, without a doubt, to a pilot who was devoted to his craft and was versatile at flying planes and even gliders.

NOTE: This re-creation can be chilling. Passengers on flight 1549 and people who are afraid of flying may not want to watch this.

Technical details
I have combined audio from eight tapes released by the FAA with what we know of the plane�s position during the flight. This reenactment shouldn�t be considered a reliable source to prove anything; there are too many gaps in the data available to me for that.

FLIGHT PATH: The flight path is a re-creation of the flight path from 9 radar points from the plane as reported by FlightAware.com. The ninth data point has been ignored � it showed the plane at 300 feet well past the point of impact. If this one is clearly wrong, could all the data points be wrong? I suspect that this signal came while the plane was already in the water, and the unusual conditions may have made this point wrong while the rest were reliable.

Also, you will see a zig-zag after the bird strike as the plane turns toward La Guardia, then back toward New Jersey before finally settling on a path down the Hudson. There is no data to show those intermediate turns. There are only two data points for this portion of the flight, so I was tempted to draw them as a straight line. However, the blog I'm just sayin' drew the curve, and after listening to the audio for this part of the flight, the curved path makes much more sense than the straight line.

AUDIO: I have combined eight audio tapes released by the FAA between pilots and controllers. In the re-creations, except for some pre-takeoff conversations, I have edited out most of the audio about other flights that aren't relevant. Once the flight is underway, almost all radio traffic you hear is about 1549.

After the bird strike and through the point of impact you will hear a number of voices at once. You may be asking, �How can anyone understand anything through this cacophony?� Actually, each tape was for a single channel, and all were clear. It is only when I combine them all together does it get so intense.

I am only using FAA radio traffic, so after the impact you�ll hear the controllers having to return to their regular work and quickly manage all the other planes in the air (which I've mostly muted). I would love to add radio traffic from the police and other rescue channels. Let me know if you have that.

Questions, suggestions and feedback welcome. flight1549questions@davinciglobal.com
- Jeral Poskey, Feb 16, 2009