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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

plane crash in Hudson! video… when?

My clock radio woke me up this morning with the deejays talking to a guy on the phone who witnessed the plane crash — or maybe we need to call it the plane landing, so nonviolent and walk-away-able it appears to have been — in the Hudson River yesterday afternoon. This guy was the first one to call it in to 911 — the operator thought he was joking, the news was that fresh.

As as I lay in bed listening to them chat about how “amazing” and “unbelievable” and “mindblowing” the whole thing was — from how gentle the landing seemed to be to how the plane just floated there afterward to how, after 9/11, it took all of us New Yorkers a long time to stop jumping every time a plane flew low over Manhattan, I thought: Somebody videotaped this landing. Someone has video of this plane touching gently down on the river.

It’s inevitable. The numbers are simply in its favor. There must be tens of thousands, minimum, of windows that overlook this part of the Hudson, on both sides of the river, apartments and offices alike. There are always people on the river and on the docks: police, Coast Guard, ferry crews and passengers; dinner cruise employees would have been getting ready for yesterday evening’s sails at the time this happened, and where they board are right where the plane landed. There’s a lot of water traffic in New York.
So if even only a tiny percentage of the people who could have been looking were actually looking, that should probably still leave hundreds, minimum, who actually saw the plane land.

The CNN report I linked to above includes this:

The final moments of the flight were watched with admiration by Ben Vonklemperer, who was on a conference call on the 25th floor of an office building in Times Square at 3:31 p.m., when he looked up.

“If someone’s going to land a plane in the water, this seemed the best possible way to do it,” he said. “The way they hit, it was very gradual. A very slow contact with the water.”

And if only a small percentage of those hundreds actually realized what was going to happen — the plane would have been flying much lower than it should have and there was no place else for it to go except into the river, so alarms should have gone off in the heads of some people — and actually picked up their cell phones or digital cameras and recorded the landing, that should still leave us with potentially dozens of instances of video.

I poked around a bit on YouTube this morning and couldn’t find anything other than news reports from after the crash featuring the admittedly stunning footage of the plane in the river. I couldn’t find any eyewitness video of the landing itself. If you come across some, please let me know, because I would love to feature it as my web video of the day.

If you actually have that video because you made it yourself and you’d like to share it, please let me know. I’d be happy to help you upload it to YouTube if you don’t know how to do it.

The police-shooting video I featured a few days ago is a terrible story to think about, and cannot possibly have any kind of happy ending for anyone involved, and indeed, is unpleasant to watch, however important it may be in a legal or cultural sense. But video of this plane landing would be a remarkably positive. and even uplifting thing to see. I want that guy, US Airways veteran pilot C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger, flying my plane next time I fly, and I bet everyone who flies feels exactly the same way.

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  • FrankS

    I’m guessing we’ll probably see footage of the landing coming from a seurity camera. I recall seeing security video footage of the crash that killed the Yankee player and his passenger – didn’t that happen around the same area?

  • PaulW

    What we’re getting are a lot of still photos. It’s likely it happened too fast for people to recognize they could film what was happening. It would be an easier reflex to use cell phones or other handhelds to take photos of the crash… If anyone did catch it on video, you’d think CNN FOX or MSNBC would have already coughed up $40 million at least for the rights.

    There’s that one photo, what has to be the earliest documented image so far, of the plane just floating there, before all the boats showed up, and my god that plane looks so SMALL sitting in the river like that (compare to scale with the piers in the background). And you can see, its close enough that you can see people starting to climb out onto the wings…

  • JasonJ

    I’m surprised, 24 hours later, video hasn’t popped up. And yes, Sully is a worthy Man-Beast that has made me realize the little water landing card in the airplane seatback is not a cruel hope giving joke.

  • Mimi

    The newspaper this morning said the pilot walked the length of the plane… TWICE… to make sure everyone was out before he left himself. Can you imagine?

    Such an amazing story. And this is cheesy, but I am reminded of Chris Eccleston/Nine’s line: “Just this once, everybody lives!”

  • Allochthon

    Mimi: Perfect!

  • Jan Willem

    I could only find this blurry picture of the plane landing on the Hudson in the NY Times online edition, submitted by a reader.

  • I thought one of the reasons we generally pay professional pilots the big bucks is precisely so that they would have the skills to come through in a situation like this.

    That said, I’m glad this had a happy ending.

  • JasonJ

    I thought one of the reasons we generally pay professional pilots the big bucks is precisely so that they would have the skills to come through in a situation like this.

    We do, but this is the first successful water landing of a passenger airliner. They practice it in the simulator, but since it had never been done in real life, it is near impossible to program a perfect simulation. He will be included in a very, very short list of pilots with the skill to land a crippled airliner and have people live through it. You can guarantee he will be involved in updated training and simulation practices.

  • Brian

    The whole point is that this wasn’t a plane crash!! Emergency landing? Yes. Crash? No.

  • Jan Willem

    Moving images from the United States Coast Guard here. It’s a pretty wide shot, though.

  • Jan Willem

    Or go to this Coast Guard video on YouTube for faster download. The plane enters screen left as it’s splashing down at 2:01.

  • Tom S.

    Nitpickery — there have been other successful water landings by passenger airplanes, just not many. As usual wiki has a list.


  • JasonJ

    Nitpickery — there have been other successful water landings by passenger airplanes, just not many. As usual wiki has a list.

    Most of those aircraft in that list were smaller, and the rest that were of similar size sustained damage and break up. The Hudson landing is the first successful water landing where the aircraft remained completely intact as designed allowing all occupants to exit in a controlled manner. Even the engines shearing off are part of the design so the wings can stay intact to provide floatation. That is successful. Those others were crashes with survivors, big difference. Need to look closer at the facts, Wiki is not the end all of information.

  • Anne-Kari
  • Jan, if that’s a live, continuous feed, which it seems to be, by the 3:00 mark, a lot of people are already outside of the plane standing on the wings. How soon did folks start evacuating (not like I’d be particularly excited about staying INSIDE of the plane!)?
    This is so amazing…

  • Jan Willem

    Yes, it’s pretty astounding. The plane splashed down some six minutes after take-off and most passengers were evacuated within one minute after impacting the Hudson river. The rescue boats were no sluggards either. Some people are very organized.

  • MaryAnn

    It was not a matter of being organized: it was a matter of people reacting without hardly even thinking about it.

    On her show the night of the landing, Rachel Maddow said this:

    New Yorkers, when confronted with danger, rush toward it to see if they can help.

    And that’s absolutely correct. It’s not about being organized. It’s about not being able to stand still when someone needs help. Hell, if two New Yorkers stop to give directions to a lost tourist, they will inevitably get into a (friendly) argument over the best way to get to wherever the tourist is trying to get to, we’re so eager to be helpful.

    It’s that same impulse that made all those ferries head directly at the plane in the water. I can almost guarantee you that no one on those ferries stopped to think about how to organize a rescue: it’s just happened spontaneously.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh, and obviously, the people on the plane did not stop to organize themselves, either: they just acted, and they acted from their best positive impulses — like the man who talked about helping the woman with the baby — instead of their worst ones, which might have resulted in an “every man for himself” scenario.

    I like to think that that’s the case with most people — whether they’re New Yorkers or not :-> — when confronted with a dangerous situation: they act altruistically, without even thinking about it.

  • Jan Willem

    Well, did you ever. I’m miffed to see the word “organized” triggered such a diatribe. It was intended as a compliment to people acting in an orderly fashion and displaying great self-restraint in the face of an unexpected, disorienting, and potentially life-threatening situation.

    Otherwise I agree with you on most of the points you make. Nice article on some of the rescuers here.

  • Jan Willem

    From the article I mentioned above: “You train so much, you don’t have to think about it,” Captain Lucas [of the Athenia, a high-speed catamaran ferry] said. “I didn’t have to give any orders to the crew.”

    My point exactly. Organized. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Anne-Kari

    You know, I really think it’s both. The people who, by the nature of their jobs (police, ferry workers, coast guard, flight crew) do train endlessly and tirelessly to prepare for nearly every situation. It doesn’t negate the bravery of what they do, it just means that they have that many more tools with which to do it.

    And the ‘laypeople’ – the passengers, regular folks who witness this sort of thing – these people do react immediately, instinctively to help, call 911, do whatever they can.

    An example that illustrates my point:

    On 9/11, there was one man who headed up security and safety for one of the major companies on a high floor of the WTC. He was apparently a stickler for drilling the entire company for emergencies after the ’93 bombing incident, and well known for stating that the best way to prepare is practice, practice, practice.

    The company bigwigs would hate his surprise drills because he insisted on pulling everyone away from their desks and practicing orderly evacuations – even if it meant all the traders dropping their phones and losing deals to practice the safety drills.

    I’m pretty sure that when the planes hit, all the employees got out – and all credited this man who trained them well, AND told them to ignore building announcements to stay in the building.

    Training got them out. The fact that this man then turned around and went back up into the building to try to help anyone else he could: that’s a tribute to the altruism mentioned.

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