Miracle on Hudson: Flight attendant recounts the landing 10 years later

Miracle on Hudson: Flight attendant recounts the landing 10 years later

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - It’s known as the Miracle on Hudson.

US Air Flight 1549 hit a flock of birds shortly taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York and all 155 passengers on board the flight bound for Charlotte survived the crash landing in the Hudson River.

Tuesday, Jan. 15, will mark the 10th anniversary of that flight.

"Well, it does feel like ten years have passed because, in one sense, I still stay in touch with people who were on the plane and we catch us with each other’s lives, but at the same time, I talk about 1549 a lot because I relive it a lot, not in a bad way, but just in the way that people are curious about what happened," said Shelia Dale, one of the three flight attendants on board US Air Flight 1549.

Dale and lead flight attendant, Donna Dent, were in the forward area of the plane while another attendant, Doreen Welch, was at the rear of the A320 when they suspected the plane had a collision with birds and were heading back to the airport, not knowing the landing would be in the Hudson River.

“When we landed, it was a very hard landing,” said Dale. “I thought we hit the runway and did not have the landing gear down because we just hit. I could tell it was the bottom of the plane just hitting, and we skidded to the left because the left engine hit the water and came off. And when we came to a stop and Sully said evacuate, I looked out and saw we did not quite make it back to the airport, so when we got off, I thought, we would be looking at the airport. So I opened my door, my raft inflated and went into the water, and I was evacuating people, Donna was doing the same thing, and when everyone was off, I could see down the plane, down the aisle, and I could see we were taking on water, so Sully told me to get into my raft. I got into my raft and all my passengers were facing in a certain direction, so looked that way and all we could see was the skyline of Manhattan, and I thought what are we doing here, where is the airport?”

Dale says by that time the first ferry boat was approaching. Her group was the first passengers to be picked up and taken to the ferry terminal.

“I saw people helping each other,” Dale said. “I saw the best in people, really, because a lot of people were on the wing, and they needed help with their balance and not falling in the water, we did have people fall into the water. I saw people helping each other, so that was surprising to me how controlled it was, and it was very orderly, it was very surprising to me, it was not the pushing and shoving.”

There were only five serious injuries among the 155 souls on-board, including a deep laceration to Doreen Welsh’s leg. Dozens of others were treated for minor injuries and hypothermia, but everyone was alive.

After the event, both the flight crew and cabin crew were given numerous awards for their bravery, including the keys to the city of New York by Mayor Bloomberg, attended the Super Bowl and the Presidential Inauguration. But it was the expert flying skills of Captain Sullenberger that was praised so highly.

Dale has continued her work in the airline industry, but after 39 years she is retiring Jan. 16 - the day after the tenth anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

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