Holding out for a hero

Published February 5, 2009

It’ll be a while before I’ll be able to get those images of a plane in the Hudson River out of my mind, but at least it’s one of those feel good stories where it all ended happily ever after. The passengers were safe, the crew were heralded, the pilot called a hero. It’s all good.

But aren’t they forgetting someone?

Today, the audio from the black box on the plane was released, and the BBC have an excerpt of it. I expected it to be terrifying to listen to, but actually, everyone involved is calm, collected and professional.

There’s also a transcript of the entire conversation, and the person who I think isn’t getting enough credit, is the air traffic controller. Firstly, they manage to locate three emergency runways for the stricken plane. Unfortunately, it can’t get to any of them, and has to bail out in the Hudson. We know how that story ends. For the ATC, he just continues navigating the planes around, without contact to the plane he knows is heading straight for the river. He directs the airports and planes and keeps things running smoothly.

No question, the pilot did a fantastic job, and certainly earned his money that day, but spare a thought for the people in the control tower, trying to limit the damage, keep the airways safe as normal, and getting none of the credit.

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