US Air Flight 1549 down in Hudson River
The Plane Goes Down
I'm sitting here on my sofa watching the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. The news tonight is all about the US Air Flight that landed in the Hudson River today after both engines were disabled by flying birds. The news actually broke on this today between twelve and one PM Pacific time. And of course, regularly scheduled programming was interrupted as my wife was watching TV, not that she minded.
By now, of course, you'r heard the story, probably multiple times, and likely have moved onto other interests since as a disaster it ranked fairly low. The plane held one hundred, fifty-five people including the pilot and copilot, and all survived. There were no deaths and probably won't be, unless they occur as a result of injuries or exposure. The plane even showed in the pictures to be relatively intact, and although damage is almost a certainty the most newsworthy thing about the story was the survival of all aboard.
Flight 1549 in the water
So at the time of the first report, I was working away on my computer when I heard my wife say something about "something must have happened." Well, we're involved in two wars, terrorists are continuing to spew threats in our direction, and the presidential inauguration is at hand. So breaking into daytime programming for a news release is no surprise.
And as could probably be expected, when the story first broke, the reporter (I failed to catch the name) was understandably excited. There was no word of casualties or injuries, and only speculation regarding the cause. As things developed, however, the full story came out into the open, and it became apparent that what could have been a tragic accident had been averted.
So then why, when Katie Couric reports the story six hours later, is she still acting as though death, doom, and gloom pervade the entire situation. Yes, it's true some people had to be rescued by divers, It's true there were injuries. It could even turn out that more people were injured than not. but why not more reporting on the positive outcome? Why not state a case on the things that were done right, or at least turned out right.
It's no secret that bad news sells better than good. It's a natural human trait, perhaps a character flaw, that most of us get some degree of satisfaction hearing bad news as opposed to good. There are those among us who would probably even say good news is boring. But the fact that there were no immediate deaths in this event is a miracle.
The Things That Were Done Right
Much, if not all of the credit should go to the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger. He assessed and correctly determined the cause of the engine failures when they happened. He reported such to flight controllers and requested permission to land at a nearby airstrip.
He had to guide the aircraft, without power, past the Manhattan skyscrapers, and turn to follow the river. He successfully guided the plane over the George Washington bridge to eliminate another potential crash hazard. All this time, the plane was vibrating, and the cabin was starting to fill with smoke.
Then the critical part; landing the plane without a solid runway and wheels on the plane. The A320 probably had to accelerate to around two hundred miles per hour to lift off. Undoubtedly, it lost some speed while coasting, but was surely moving at a relatively high speed when it hit the water. The water, moving slower, held the potential to cause the aircraft to flip or roll upon impact, and the fact that it didn't indicates that it came in at good angle. Once again, this is to the pilot's credit. Also, he advised the passengers to prepare for a "hard landing" which is a much better description of what happened that the term used by the media, ie. "crash". I heard reports also, that after the passengers evacuated, the pilot went through the craft to be sure no one had been missed.
What happens next? We'll have to watch and see. Will CBS, ABC, NBC and or FOX report this with a positive outlook, or will it continue to be covered, in a way that suggests it resulted as a part of all that is wrong with America. The cause of the crash was a flock of birds striking the jet. Both engines were knocked out as a result. Will consumer groups push for more safeguards to prevent future accidents? Will animal rights groups seed to have flights curtailed so wild geese and other species won't be threatened? And what about the passengers? Although no deaths were reported, will there be lawsuits for the "pain and suffering"? Will the pilot who saved their lives and almost certainly felt a degree of responsibility none of his passengers shared, ultimately be blamed for failing to avoid a flock of birds, even though it was impossible?
And, if these or other scenarios happen, how will the media report it? Will it be with the typical doom and gloom overtones, or in the event of lawsuits, will they play the victims' advocate, and infer the defendant(s) are getting what they deserve? Time alone will tell, but it remains to be see the extent of cruelty and injustice mankind can inflict on other members of his own species.