On January 15, the world watched in awe as all 155 passengers and crew from a downed US Airways jet were rescued from the Hudson River in New York in record time. One passenger was briefly hospitalized with two broken legs but, miraculously, there were no serious injuries.
It was a great cause for celebration. However, this celebration may be short lived.
While most of the passengers are grateful just to be alive and will greet each new day with the kind of appreciation that only comes from having lived through a harrowing experience, others are looking to “cash in.”
The question is who is really to blame?
While the NTSB is in the process of investigating the accident, it appears that a large flock of geese struck the airliner and stalled the engines. According to news reports, some 30 to 45 seconds after takeoff, the pilots reported a double-bird strike. The controller sent the aircraft back toward LaGuardia but the pilot then asked to land at Teterboro Airport. There was silence as Captain Sullenberger assessed the situation and then made the decision to put the plane down in the river.
In doing so, the captain lost the airliner but saved the lives of everyone on board. With two dead engines and the possibility of landing at Teterboro – or not, – Sullenberger was unwilling to take a risk that could have ended in disaster.
The captain made a perfect water landing. Emergency and commuter craft rushed to the scene and in about five minutes all were rescued.
You would think those fortunate passengers would be praising the good Lord to whom they reportedly were praying before their aircraft hit the water, but no, some are looking to sue for damages well beyond their bumps and bruises.
Whom do you sue, the geese? No payoff there.
Perhaps they could sue God, yes, the big man himself. The Bible says He created all things, is omnipresent, knows all things. God could have informed air traffic control of the flight plan of those geese, but He didn’t.
Who is brave enough to take on the great I Am?
US Airways has done everything possible to assist these passengers, arranging flights, even sending a letter of apology and a $5,000 check to help “with immediate needs.” Meanwhile, the airline’s insurance claims specialists are contacting each passenger to make sure everyone is reimbursed for all loses.
Could there be a better outcome for these passengers if this simply was, as it appears to be, an unfortunate experience? Nevertheless Kreindler & Kreindler, a New York law firm, reports that it has been contacted by several passengers. Another passenger, Joe Hart, told USA Today that he’s talked to a lawyer in North Carolina but hasn’t decided whether to take legal action. Hart wants to “see how things play out with US Airways.”
If it was a bird strike, what part does Mr. Hart think the airline played in all this besides saving his life?
Hart says that he is concerned about having trouble flying (he’s already taken six flights). Nevertheless, he says he’s been nervous and says he “would like to be made whole for the incident.” How do you spell post-traumatic stress disorder?
It is true that this plane had a problem with one of the engines two days earlier which was identified as an “air compression stall.” The crew reported that they fixed the problem and continued the flight. This may or may not be related. However, air compression stalls are sometimes caused by — guess what – birds. It’s that time of year. I’m a pilot and, last week, I counted 35 geese on my runway at one time. This is a major problem that exists twice a year when birds are migrating.
Airline engines should survive a bird strike, but not always.
If those birds were to blame for this incident while try to milk the airline? It drives up the cost of air travel and hurts everyone. If a deer runs out in front of your car causing an accident, do you sue the automobile company?
My advice to Mr. Hart and others who are considering legal action is this. Thank the good Lord, who appears to have orchestrated this event for the good of all concerned. Write “thank you” notes to the captain and some of the people who pulled you to safety and took care of you after the accident and . . . get over it!
It is rare for anyone to get through life without a mishap or two. Some of those mishaps are more dramatic than others and, let’s face it, some of us need such a wake-up call. Heed it!