Saturday, January 17, 2009

What is a miracle?

from w
Do miracles happen today? They say an extraordinary turn of events, being saved when in great danger, God's gift/grace/help in times of trouble. They are calling that pilot's handling of the situation with the plane above the Hudston River is a miracle. It could have been a 'natural' disaster caused by a flock of flying geese! Certainly it was an extraordinary incident of gliding a plane to a safe landing on water and all the passangers got out quickly, calmlyn and then rescued. On a wing and a prayer indeed. That pilot is certainly a hero. But 'miracle'? There are times when people are not saved, when prayers are not answered, so there is still a mystery about why, and why not, in this life. And there are times when, I believe, something happens that just cannot be explained by logical means. Perhaps in the case of the plane in the Hudson River, it was the skill of the pilot. Perhaps it was something that God was showing us at this time.

from Ian Munro in New York
January 17, 2009

HE IS a 57-year-old former US fighter pilot and a 29-year veteran of commercial airliners. And now Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is a hero to this city and to the families of the 154 people whose lives he saved yesterday.

Flying an Airbus 320 from New York, he was not out of sight before he lost power. Unable to return to LaGuardia Airport, Captain Sullenberger kept the plane intact even as he ditched it in the Hudson River adjacent to midtown Manhattan.

Between buckling up and taking the brace position, there was less than six minutes' flying time for the 150 passengers on United States Airways flight 1549.

In that time there was a bang from the port engine and a shudder through the plane. The smell of smoke wafted through the cabin and almost immediately the plane banked as if to return to LaGuardia, before it straightened into a flight path that shadowed the icy Hudson River.

Captain Sullenberger provided the minimum of communication. His one instruction to the cabin was to prepare for impact.

"He told us to brace ourselves and probably brace ourselves pretty hard . . . everyone kind of looked at each other and said some prayers," said Jeff Kolodjay of Connecticut. "I said, 'oh man, we are going to hit the water'."

Other passengers described a few cries, the cabin settling into a hushed silence, and the longest two minutes of any of their lives. "For the most part it got really quiet," Alberto Panero told CNN. "I just said to myself, 'this is it, let's do it'."

Darren Beck, 37, a marketing executive, heard a thumping sound and then came the captain's order to brace. He said the flight attendants, still strapped in for the ascent, "kept saying, 'Keep your head down - brace for impact.' They said it over and over, chanting it."

What followed was an extraordinary, even miraculous, water landing - a jolt like a car crash, one said, like a ride at DisneyWorld said another - that elevated Captain Sullenberger to hero status. The plane took off at 3.26pm and was in the water by about 3.32pm.

Initial panic as water entered the rear of the plane subsided into an orderly evacuation once it was realised the plane was stable.

Within a minute of the stricken A320 settling onto the water, passengers began taking up positions on the wings. It was a near-freezing 0.27 degrees in the water, and even chillier out of it. Commuter and tourist ferries sailed to complete their rescue.

Molly Schugel, 32, who was in a mid-cabin exit row, said there was "definitely fear in the plane". But she and nearby passengers used their last airborne moments to scan the emergency diagrams on the exit hatch. "We were all studying the door, what to do," she said. "Every plane you fly has different handles. The guy next to me, as soon as we hit the water, he opened the door within seconds, and we got out."

No one stopped for handbags or coats. "People were just trying to get off," one man said, and, forgetting his life jacket, spent anxious moments clinging to the side of the plane until he was thrown one from a ferry.

On the wings, at first they were ankle, then knee deep, in the frigid water. The survivors fell into an eerie silence, said a North Carolina man, Joshua Peltz. "People were slowly pouring out of the plane and pushing us closer to the water," he said.

Mr Kolodjay, who saw a woman with a baby trying to climb over the plane seats, said passengers allowed women and children to evacuate first. The inflatable raft he climbed into was sinking before their rescue was complete. "It was intense. You've got to give it to the pilot. He made a hell of a landing," he said.

The ferries were joined by police and fire department boats, and police divers who dropped into the water to help with rescues. Most passengers were able to step directly onto the decks of the ferries, although several dropped into the water. The most serious injury was a broken leg suffered by a flight attendant. Several passengers were treated for hypothermia.

This was a "near-death experience" that, thankfully, did not end in death, Mr Panero said.

etc. etc.

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