More than 750 NYPD officers respond via air, sea, land to downed flight
Ed Note: Guest Homeland1 Contributor Kenneth Solosky, a veteran NYPD helicopter pilot, provides his assessment of the heroic emergency response of police and firefighters to near-miraculous ditching of Flight 1549 into the icy waters of the Hudson River.
By Kenneth Solosky
The snow had stopped a few hours before and the sky was clear yet bitterly cold when Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger of US Airways flight 1549 throttled up his Airbus A320 aircraft and began his takeoff roll en route to Charlotte, NC. Within two minutes of takeoff, Captain Sullenberger had a major problem on his hands. He reported a bird strike and requested emergency vectors back to LaGuardia airport. He quickly changed that request and asked to go to New Jersey's Teterboro airport, a very busy general aviation airport located just west of New York City.
Finally, without any further radio transmissions, the captain, realizing he could not make any airport and that his options over the very densely populated metropolitan area were limited, decided to make water ditching on the Hudson River. Expertly guiding his aircraft, the captain achieved just that: a perfect water landing. The aircraft remained intact. The passengers were quickly evacuated to the wings of the aircraft.
The 911 calls poured in fast and furious to numerous emergency call centers on both sides of the Hudson. Some first response units witnessed the crash firsthand and were reporting the details to their respective dispatchers. The "airliner down" confirmation was quickly made and set into motion a very well trained, practiced and rehearsed regional emergency response plan.
The NYPD's Special Operations Division spearheaded the response with units from the Emergency Services Unit, Aviation Unit and Harbor Unit. Within minutes, specialized units from ESU were on scene. These highly trained officers are EMTs, SCUBA divers, small boat handlers and experts with all of their rescue tools. The NYPD Aviation Unit's Air Sea Rescue helicopter responded and deployed their SCUBA divers to commence an interior cabin search for any passengers. Aviation Units from the Nassau County Police department and New Jersey State Police responded and were Medevac-capable. Numerous boats form the Harbor Unit responded to help ferry any passengers and secure the boat.
In addition to patrol units, the NYPD mobilized their respective borough task forces, as well as their Hercules and Critical Response Vehicle teams. In a matter of minutes over 750 NYPD officers were assigned and on scene.
The response from the FDNY was equally rapid and impressive. Units from their marine division and rescue truck and engine companies responded in cooperation with the NYPD. Including both agencies, there were more than 1,000 rescuers on scene within a matter of 15 minutes.
The New Jersey side of the river also saw an enormous response, with multiple fire, police and EMS units responding. Within sixty minutes, there was literally thousands of responders were on scene and ready to assist.
Passengers in an inflatable raft move away from an Airbus 320 US Airways aircraft that has gone down in the Hudson River in New York, Thursday. No deaths or serious injuries were immediately reported. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
An incident command post was quickly established, and all local, state and federal agencies responded as planned. Furthermore, many commercial ferry boats were quickly on scene and able to remove the vast majority of the passengers to both sides of the Hudson River for evaluation and treatment.
The NY/NJ Metro Region Response
If anything good could have come out of the 9/11 tragedy, it is the region's constant preparedness for and training in these types of emergencies. A major airliner down has been practiced and drilled; every agency had a plan to follow. Fortunately, much of the area's emergency response resources were not necessary (but it is always impressive to watch this region's emergency response teams gear up and respond). As part of the emergency response plan, local trauma centers and specialized care centers such as pediatrics and burn centers were on alert and ready to receive any accident victims.
It is not overstating the case that there could have been 5,000 emergency responders on the scene within two hours. An impressive showing, by any measure.
By all accounts the US Airways flight crew deserves tremendous accolades and kudos. There actions simply saved everyone’s life, making for a very happy ending to what have could have been a major aircraft disaster. Congratulations to all involved on a job well done.
Also read Homeland1 Exclusive: Firefighter describes response to Hudson plane crash
About the author
Kenneth J. Solosky retired from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in 2007 after twenty one years of service as a Lieutenant/Chief Pilot/Director of Training in the Aviation Unit. His other assignments within the police department have included: patrol, patrol sergeant, patrol platoon commander, the Warrant Division and Police Academy instructor. Ken is licensed as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) in both airplanes & helicopters and is a certified helicopter flight instructor.
Ken has ratings as an advanced ground and instrument ground instructor. Ken is a certified New York State Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-B) currently serving as an EMT and Commissioner in the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps Inc. After retirement from the NYPD, he was appointed the Chief Pilot for the Newark, NJ Police Department Aviation Unit. He flies part-time with “Hoverviews Unlimited”, the premier aerial cinematography company on the east coast of the United States and with a nationally known architectural firm operating a Falcon 10 and Cessna 421 airplane. He also works part-time as an instructor in the North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health System Emergency Management and Corporate Security Departments.
Ken is the founder, president and lead instructor for Code Red Training Inc., an aviation, emergency medical, safety and security training company.