On January 15, 2009, shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport, US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of Canada geese. The geese were then sucked into the plane's twin engines, causing total engine failure and the loss of power. Case A of this three-part series recounts how over the following four minutes, Flight 1549's Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles grappled with a variety of extreme challenges. Not only did they have to keep the plane under control, but they also had to quickly decide whether they could make an emergency landing at a nearby airport or find another alternative to get the plane down safely in one of the most crowded regions in the country. Cases B and C then describe how, after the plane landed in the cold waters of the Hudson River, emergency responders from many agencies and private organizations--converging on the scene without a prior action plan for this type of emergency--scrambled to both rescue passengers and crew and stabilize the aircraft as it began to move downstream.
This case prompts readers to consider the challenges of responding to a sudden crisis involving intense pressure and significant uncertainty. By highlighting the actions the captain and crew of US Airways Flight 1549 took following the failure of the plane's engines, Case A provides students insight into a decision-making process that necessitated considerable improvisation--but that also relied on experience and preparedness.