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16 January 2009

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

Crash of US Airways Flight 1549

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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


  1. I believe there was a later crash than the TACA A-320 in Tegucigalpa, namely the Air New Zealand in Perpignan late 2008

  2. What has been left out of the reporting on this ditching is the degraded flight control situation caused by the loss of two (engine driven hydraulic pumps) of the three hydraulic systems (the third system is an electrically driven pump). That makes this flying skill of the Captain and the quality of the ditching even more impressive. Also no one has interviewed any Coast Guard aviation personnel. Coast Guard aviators have extensive training in ditching situations both from how to execute a ditching in one of their own aircraft and briefing the crew of a distressed aircraft in how to mexecute a ditching.