The News

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

29 January 2009

Apologies for Mailing List Email Problems

As many of you are aware, on 29 January 2009 there was a massive outflow of notices to mailing list and feed subscribers.'s feed management services were transferred from Feedburner to Google earlier that day. After the transfer, Google's system apparently treated all News postings as new, and the automated mailing list system sent out several dozen notices. We regret this error and have taken steps to keep this from happening in the future.

25 January 2009

Interview on WGN Radio after the US Airways Ditching (audio - MP3)

On 15 January 2009, a US Airways A320 encountered a flock of birds shortly after takeoff. Both engines lost power, apparently as the result of experiencing multiple bird strikes, and the crew was able to successfully ditch the aircraft in the Hudson River. All five crew members and 150 passengers survived the accident. The following day, Dr. Todd Curtis was a guest of Dean Richards on Chicago's WGN radio. They discussed the US Airways event, how the public's fear of flying is affected by extensive media coverage of airline accidents, and what kind of measures could be taken to deal with the threat of bird strikes.

Listen to the interview

For more information on the accident, including videos and background information on bird strike hazards and airliner ditchings, visit:

24 January 2009

Comparison of Eight Bird Strike Accidents, Including US Airways Flight 1549

The 15 January 2009 accident involving US Airways Flight 1549 was one of those rare bird strike events that resulted in the loss of an aircraft. A crash due to a bird strike is a rare event, but over the last several decades there have been several of these accidents that were investigated by authorities in the US and elsewhere. In the 2000 book Understanding Aviation Safety Data, Dr. Todd Curtis of reviewed seven of these accidents and found that there were very clear patterns among them, including the key roles that flight crews had in the accident sequence, both in preventing fatalities as was the case with the US Airways crash, or contributing to an accident that may have been avoided had the crew performed differently.

After last week's accident, that original analysis was updated to include the US Airways accident. The goal was to provide a better model for how bird stike related accidents occur, and more importantly highlight issues that the aviation industry should address in order to reduce bird strike related risks. This method could be applied more broadly, specifically to risks such as runway incursions, which is a problem area that is of great concern to both the FAA and NTSB.

You are invited to not only review this analysis (links below), but also to send comments, suggestions, or even corrections to at Once the review period has ended, will make this study permanently available on the site.

Download "Comparison of Eight Serious Bird Strike Accidents"


17 January 2009 Clarifies the Definition of Ditching

After the extensive coverage of the 15 January 2008 ditching involving a US Airways A320, there has been an unprecedented public interest in the subject of airliner ditchings. On the day after the accident, USA Today quoted's data that there had only been three previous ditchings involving passenger jets. Several people sent me feedback pointing out events that they believed had been overlooked by I reviewed those events and excluded them, but after reviewing the ditching page at, I decided that the definition that was provided was not completely clear.

I revised the definitions page at to include the following definition for ditching:
An event where the flight crew intentionally lands an aircraft in some body of water such as a lake, a river, or the open ocean. In addition, the event would have to meet the following conditions or criteria:
  • Accidental or unintentional landings or excursions onto water are excluded, such as runway overruns or controlled flight into water.
  • Uncontrolled impacts with water are excluded.
  • The body of water must be deep enough that if the aircraft sinks, some or all of the occupants would have to evacuate the aircraft cabin to avoid drowning.

This definition is consistent with how has always defined ditchings. If you believe that the definition needs further work, by all means leave a comment to this post with your suggestions.

16 January 2009

Ditching of a US Airways A320 on the Hudson River in New York

Crash of US Airways Flight 1549

Audio: MP3 | Video: iPod/MP4 | WMV | Google Video | YouTube

For more videos, visit the YouTube channel.

On 15 January 2009, a US Airways A320 experienced a loss of power to both engines shortly after taking off from New York's LaGuardia Airport. The crew was able to successfully ditch the aircraft in the Hudson River near midtown Manhattan. Reportedly, the aircraft encountered a flock of birds shortly after takeoff. The aircraft reached an maximum altitude of about 3200 feet before it began to descend. After ditching, all five crew members and 150 passengers evacuated the aircraft. One passenger sustained serious injuries.

According to early reports, the aircraft took off normally toward the north, but the flight crew reported striking a flock of birds about two minutes after takeoff. Both engines lost power, and unable to either return to LaGuardia or to land in nearby Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, the crew turned the aircraft toward the south. After flying over the George Washington Bridge, the crew executed a controlled ditching on the Hudson River just west of midtown Manhattan. The passengers and crew escaped with the help of numerous ferries, tour boats, fireboats, and other vessels in the area.

This was the first crash of an Airbus A320 operated by a US airline. The A320 has had eight events involving passenger fatalities. The first was a 1988 crash involving Air France, and the most recent was a May 2008 crash of a TACA airliner in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

While many jet airliners have crashed in the water, prior research by revealed only three previous events where the crew of a large passenger jet intentionally ditched the aircraft in a controlled manner. Prior to the US Airways event, the most recent ditching involved a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines 767 in 1996. The others included a 1963 ditching of an Aeroflot jet in Leningrad (present day St. Petersburg), and a 1970 ditching of a DC-9 in the Caribbean.

Fatal and serious bird strike related crashes of large jet aircraft are also quite rare. The last fatal US bird strike accident involving a large jet was the crash of a US Air Force E-3 AWACS in Alaska in 1995. The last time bird strikes led to passenger deaths in the US was in 1960 in Boston. Since 1990, five other large jet airliners have crashed due to bird strikes, but only one involved fatalities.

The NTSB is currently investigating this US Airways accident. For updates on this investigation, and for the latest news from, visit

For related information, visit:
Previous US Airways Crashes
Other Significant A320 Events
Bird Strike Hazards to Aircraft
Jet Airliner Ditching Events

08 January 2009

New Video for Year in Review 2008 Released

The new video for the podcast "'s Airline Safety Review for 2008" is now available. You can see the video or listen to the audio version, below, or you can find it at one of the podcast links.

Audio: MP3 | Video: iPod/MP4 | WMV | Google Video | YouTube

For details on the events of 2008, visit

For more videos, visit the YouTube channel.