In The News
What media missed in 'Miracle on Hudson'
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
“Miracle on the Hudson” – as New York Gov. David Patterson described the Jan. 15 rescue – produced wall to wall coverage on TV and in newspapers around the country, an astounding story . . . except that several important aspects went unreported or perhaps deliberately ignored by outlets such as Milwaukee’s main newspaper and TV stations.
The main heroics were well known after a flock of geese hit the engines of US Airways Flight 1549 shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia and robbed the plane of power. As it flew 900 feet over the George Washington Bridge, a remarkable pilot and crew banked the flight over the Hudson River and executed a perfect touchdown in the icy river. Ferries and other ships rushed to the rescue, employing impromptu group action as well as the training from countless ditching drills.
The 155 passengers and crew were off the plane in 90 seconds. One woman had two broken legs but everyone was saved -- as Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III confirmed while walking the length of the downed plane twice before being the last to leave.
So what essential elements did so many regional newspapers decide not to mention?
The quick thinking, calm and extensive ability of Sullenberger stemmed not just from being a former Air Force pilot and safety expert with 40 years of flight experience. He also served as instructor and safety committee chairman for the Air Line Pilots Association, ALPA.
The three flight attendants who shepherded the passengers safely out the emergency exits are members of the Flight Attendants-CWA (the same unions represent the pilots and flight crews at Midwest Airlines and regularly conduct intense safety drills to back their reputation as the most experienced crews in the skies).
The air traffic controllers who helped guide the flight and kept other aircraft alert to the danger area are members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) They maintained an “eerie calm” and perfect control in this rescue, though they are shorthanded because the Bush Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has refused over three years to bargain a new contract.
The ferry crews that immediately responded when they saw the plane in the river are Seafarers (SIU) members, a union that provides extensive ongoing safety training. The police and fireboats that arrived to pull passengers to safety are crewed by members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the same unions that on 9/11 rushed toward danger to rescue fellow workers and citizens.
Every stage in this amazing controlled landing and rescue with no loss of life was handled by union members trained to react. The decision not to recognize that seemed perversely grounded in the attitudes of far too much of the media. Only the New York Times recognized the union role in this event.
“What they are not telling you,” noted one journalist “was that every single one of these heroes is a union member. They are union members who got that that extensive safety and job training thanks to their union contracts.”
Makes you wonder why the largely non-union media outlets failed to mention this basic reality.