Flight 1549 miraculously landed on the Hudson river, saving the lives of 155 people. Why it could have turned out into a disaster.
Captain Chesley ´Sully´ Sullenberger was on a steady climb when his airliner collided into a flock of birds. It instantly stopped both engines and the plane started losing speed very fast.
At this moment, the pilot did the right thing, taking control of the plane and pushing it down to sustain speed as a priority. If he had not, the airplane would have stalled, meaning the air flow being to slow to sustain the wings, the plane would have been out of control and falling.
Without thrust, the airliner became a glider. Knowing the ratio between altitude and distance, approximately three times the altitude, the pilot quickly knew he had not enough range to reach a runway.
He did the right thing choosing to land on the Hudson River, but there were many ways it could have turned into a terrible ending. When you land on water, if a wing touches down, the plane turns and disintegrates, killing everyone on board. To avoid this, and keep the wings perfectly level, you need to sustain enough speed for good control. At the same time, you need the nose to be up, because the other cause of breaking the plane apart is to have the nose under the water, stopping the natural glide into a brutal fatal stop.
To have the nose up, you need to go slow, for the plane to keep an upward angle and still going nicely down. Here we see the contradiction between fast speed to control the wings level, and slow speed to keep the nose up.
What made this possible is having a large and long river. Landing in the water is not like landing on a strip you have to line up perfectly and touch down at a limited area. On his approach, The pilot could glide over the water, waiting for the perfect speed to be reached to gently touch down with the safest possible conditions.
With no engine it was a one shot trial. No second chance.
When the plane touched the water, it made a hole in the rear fuselage on impact. Water started filling in and passengers were difficult to keep calm. One of them forced the door open, with the result of flooding the cabin even faster. It all ended well because the front end of the plane was undamaged and dry. In open sea, it is probable that the icy water flooding in would have killed more. Here, the rescue boats were there in seconds, and all 155 passengers were safely transferred. Only a few were injured, from the impact at the rear of the plane. PLANE CRASH Many ways to crash a plane