Within two minutes after takeoff, the crew reported that their 80 ton twin-jet plane had struck multiple birds causing the loss of both engines.
Within seven minutes after takeoff, the plane touched down in the Hudson River at 125 miles per hour. Within nine minutes after takeoff, boats were on the scene rescuing passengers and crew. Within 56 minutes after takeoff, all persons aboard were confirmed on shore. Within 90 minutes after takeoff, emergency crews began to stand down. All 155 persons aboard survived, with only one moderate injury. The air temperature that day was in the 20s, the water temperature in the 30s.
Wow. This is my loose accounting of the numbers from that day. These numbers made me extremely proud. Finally, the year starts off with a true success story. By no means am I suggesting this kind of event ever needs repeating but, my goodness, what a fabulous risk management triumph. This is it. This is a perfect illustration of what we in the risk management world are gunning for. I know there has been a lot of press on this event but I simply could not resist writing about it myself.
A bird strike or BASH (Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard) event happens most often during takeoff, landing, or during low altitude flight. Depending on the damage and altitudes, the recovery time is very limited and thus high potential for a crash. Flocks of birds are especially dangerous, and can lead to multiple strikes, and damage. These BASH events cause annual damages that have been estimated at $400 million in the United States of America alone to $1.2 billion worldwide to commercial aircraft.
The majority, 90 percent according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, of bird collisions occur near or on airports. This is considered to be one of the key hazards in the aviation industry today yet planes are taking off and landing with a remarkably stable track record. Why?
Let's start by meeting the pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger. He is a recognized pioneer and expert in safety, high performance, high reliability, leadership and culture change. He is the founder of Safety Reliability Methods Inc., a firm whose mission is to provide technical expertise, vision and direction on safety issues. He was instrumental in developing the crew resource management courses, which focus on better communication among flight crews.
And not surprising, he is also a key authority on high reliability organizations (HRO). What a tribute. I wrote a column titled Built to Perfection in the August 2008 issue of Risk & Insurance on HROs, and then we witness a near flawless performance of an HRO just a few months later! I feel today as I did when I wrote the column, that the amazing outcome of this incident was achieved not by accident but by design. To quote the column, " ... perfect (HRO) operation is not being met by chance but is being achieved by design and with deliberation."
The members of flight 1549 and other rescue vehicles shared and trained for a collective state of mindfulness, skill, communication, composure, collaboration--a 6-minute performance played by a finely tuned orchestra led by a remarkably progressive conductor. What a testament to the value of risk management and empowered leadership. Kudos.
the former risk manager for a global energy company, is a leading specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques for ERM Quickstart. She writes on risk management.
March 3, 2009
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