The Safety of US Airways Flight 1549 Passengers Was No Miracle

After the remarkable fact that all 155 passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 are alive and fairly well, I’m not surprised to hear people saying it was a miracle and that this was God’s will.

(Of course, no one is saying God directed the geese to fly into the plane’s engines… but that’s another story.)

Superstitious nonsense aside, though, I’m not hearing as much miracle-talk as I thought I would be.

Credit seems to be going to where it should be going — to Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger..

Maybe because we have a real live hero this time around, God isn’t mentioned in the picture as much.

When a train crashes or an accident happens, there’s not always a person you can point to and say “That person is the reason I’m still alive.” It’s easy to give credit to a God then.

Let’s keep the focus on the educated and well-trained pilot and his crew where it should be — as well as the selfless helpers who came to the rescue after the plane landed on the Hudson. They’re the real saviors.

Let’s correct anyone who says credit should go anywhere else, denigrating the true heroes’ contributions.

  • TK

    As I’ve always said: Give credit where credit is due. I hate it when people thank their gods when there are dozens of real things to be thankful for in any given situation.

  • Stephen P

    Let’s keep the focus on the educated and well-trained pilot and his crew where it should be — as well as the selfless helpers who came to the rescue after the plane landed on the Hudson. They’re the real saviors.

    And don’t forget the people who designed and built the plane. Not only did it survive the crash intact, which many planes would not have done, but the designers included special port-closing devices to keep the plane afloat.

  • Dutch

    Nobody mentioned the poor geese that passed away in this incident.

  • Kate

    THANK YOU. I am so sick and tired of hearing about “praise god!” and millions of other sentiments. Our local news channel’s website allows people to post comments on the stories. 99% of all the comments are gushing about how great god is in all of this and oh yeah, the pilot was neat too but it was mainly GOD.

    NO. This is one of the most badass pilots ever and I wish people would start giving HIM the credit that he deserves. Like you said, no one’s giving god credit for the birds that flew into the engines.

  • Jim Baerg

    For a good analysis of this see:
    http://depletedcranium.com/?p=1509

  • http://t3knomanser.livejournal.com t3knomanser

    One more group of people to thank: the passengers for being responsible and keeping their heads. Just one hint of panic could have caused people to die.

    The only miracle I see is the fact that everyone involved in this event kept their heads, reacted with sober judgment and did the right thing. From the pilot and his crew to the ferries to the passengers, I’m stunned that nobody picked that moment to be a moron.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    Who are the heroes? I saw some people doing their jobs, nothing more.

  • Skeptimal

    I think some of the “god” references we hear are just people struggling to find an expression of their joy and relief to be alive. That’s certainly worth celebrating.

    You’re right, though. A god may or may not have been involved in some way, but the actions of the pilot, the flight crew, and the boat-hands in the river were the heroic ones. It might be said that the only clear “act of god” in this situation was putting a large bird in the line of flight. (I wonder why people never ask why god did that?)

  • Vincent

    And don’t forget the people who designed and built the plane. Not only did it survive the crash intact, which many planes would not have done, but the designers included special port-closing devices to keep the plane afloat.

    Though from reports I have read, they didn’t have time to activate those, so nice feature to have but doesn’t get any credit this time.

    One more group of people to thank: the passengers for being responsible and keeping their heads. Just one hint of panic could have caused people to die.

    Actually, thank the flight crew. One flight attendant did have to stop a panicky passenger from opening the rear escape door – which was partly under water.

    This is a truly amazing story all around. From the inexperienced copilot who rushed through emergency landing procedures from 3000 feet while they were designed for starting from 35,000 feet; to the flight attendant mentioned above; to the pilot who realized that if he kept course he’d land in a residential suburb, if he turned back to the airport he’d never clear the NY skyline, and saw that he could bring her down within easy reach of the Hudson River Ferry launch; to the people who trained them.

    People can do amazing things when they work together and work rationally.

  • http://revright.wordpress.com/ RevRight

    I’m also a bit surprised that God isn’t getting more credit for this whole thing. The general rule of thumb is: (1) Desirable outcome = God’s activity; (2) Undesirable outcome = Mystery/human failing. This is clearly a case of the former.

  • Sean

    Sadly I think one of the most expression of god in this accident comes from my town, a blatant lack of giving credit where it’s really due:
    West Bend Attorney

    I hope she’s never my attorney

  • Miko

    Sure, it could have all been a natural occurrence, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is a possibility that there actually is a god, who deliberately directed the geese into the engine out of its omniscient knowledge that one of the passengers would grow up to become the next Hitler, only to have its will thwarted by the pilot being too well trained.

  • Miko

    vjack: If they’re just doing their jobs, it just means that they chose to be heroes ahead of time rather than in the moment.

  • http://blackskeptic.wordpress.com blackskeptic

    I feel pretty bad for the geese. I’m consoled knowing that it must have been a quick and painless death as they were sucked into those massive engines. RIP geese!

  • I Doubt It

    It was nice to hear some good news for a change. And, I saw the media focus a lot on the pilot’s actions and the preparedness of the rescue crews.

    I happened to correct my Dad yesterday when he said “It looked like a couple miracles occurred there.” He’s not overly religious and may have just used the word in a general sense, but I made sure to say that circumstance, preparation and skills were what saved all those folks.

  • http://www.claire-eclectic.com Ashes

    Well of _course_ God directed the geese into the engines, Little Baby Jesus wanted some KFC.

  • Polly

    (Of course, no one is saying God directed the geese to fly into the plane’s engines… but that’s another story.)

    Obviously, you don’t get god at all /eyeroll
    John 9:1-3

    1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
    3″Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

  • cathy

    Yay Unions! Every one of the rescue workers, the flight attendents, and the pilot were trained on safety by their unions (the pilot even represented his union before on safety training issues).

  • stephanie

    First the Avian Flu and now this.
    Why aren’t we fighting the true terrorists- waterfowl!

  • Video Martyr

    What I saw was a news media so hungry to report something other than war or the failing global economy, that they were actually referring to the crash as something good and wonderful. I mean, some of them were gushing. It was fairly unprofessional and truly sensationalized the plight of 155 people. How long before all these frightened travelers are paraded out in front of Today, or GMA cameras so we can “celebrate” life for the sake of pharmaceutical, cereal, and insurance commercials? If only the plane had landed on Oprah, ricocheted off and squashed Ellen, and then all 155 walk out would I be calling this a miracle. Rant over.

  • http://www.matthewfeath.blogspot.com Matt Feath

    I just had to do that with a guy at work tonight … he’s religious (although you wouldn’t think he was by the way he talks about women) and said that it was a miracle … I told him it wasn’t a miracle but damned good flying.

  • AxeGrrl

    And, I saw the media focus a lot on the pilot’s actions and the preparedness of the rescue crews.

    Indeed :) one news channel covering the story (i wish i could remember which one it was) had a voiceover that actually said: “some are calling it a miracle, but in reality, it was the work of many men/women….” (not the exact wording, but close) I was pleasantly surprised :)

  • Polly

    Tangentially:

    The day I read this item on FA, a little while later my mother showed me a gift card that she got from a raffle at work. She hasn’t been to work in over a year due to health problems. Her co-workers, nevertheless, included her and sent her, her winnings. She exlcaimed:

    “God is so kind to me”

    I said, “Your CO-WORKERS were kind to you.”

    Her response: “I pray to god to give me favor with people.”

    No matter what, god gets the credit. People are just his pawns. She gave no credit to her co-workers.

  • David Manley

    I’m not sure how I stumbled on to this site. I’m a pilot with USAir for 22 years based in Boston. I fly the Airbus and am intimate with it’s systems etc. and I can tell you all that it’s a great job he did (Sully) but also the whole crew from first officer to esoecially the flight attendants. God bless all of them and you all. Dave

  • Airmanis

    “This is a truly amazing story all around. From the inexperienced copilot who rushed through emergency landing procedures from 3000 feet

    while they were designed for starting from 35,000 feet; to the flight attendant mentioned above; to the pilot who realized that if he kept course he’d land in a residential suburb, if he turned back to the airport he’d never clear the NY skyline, and saw that he could bring her down within easy reach of the Hudson River Ferry launch; to the people who trained them.”

    In-experienced co-pilot??! The man may have had right seat duties, but he had over 15000 hours in his log book. Im positive his contribution to the success of this situation has been far under-reported. Im in no way dis-crediting the actions of Capt. Chesley, but lets give Jeff Skiles some respect too!


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