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Statement by NATCA President Patrick Forrey about Thursday's "Miracle on the Hudson" - (1/17/2009)

CONTACT:  Doug Church, 301-346-8245

Washington – The following is a statement by National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Patrick Forrey, reflecting on Thursday’s amazing chapter in America’s proud aviation history, the safe water landing and evacuation of US Airways Flight 1549.

“I have never been so proud of the men and women who work on the front lines of our National Airspace System than I am right now. This incredible story of survival from an extremely rare and perilous condition of crippled flight was written by an extraordinary team of experienced, dedicated professionals in the air, on the ground and – in Thursday’s case – on the water that provide the safety net for the traveling public every day.

“We salute Capt. Chesley B. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger III, and his first officer, Jeffrey Skiles for one of the greatest feats of airmanship we have ever seen, executed with the knowledge and skills that only many years of experience can provide. Their crew of union flight attendants were also highly skilled and experienced and guided every passenger out of the plane, where they were met by quick-acting, professional New York rescue personnel as well as brave individuals onboard ferries, tugboats and water taxis who answered an urgent call of need.

“We are also proud to salute our NATCA members involved, particularly the air traffic controller at New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), Patrick Harten, a 10-year veteran who possesses the great skill and experience demanded in all of our facilities especially in emergency situations where calm handling and quick thinking and decision-making is the key to safety. Controllers on the ground at both LaGuardia and Teterboro towers prepared their airports for a possible emergency landing of this aircraft, quickly performing their checklist of duties.

“And it should be noted that, in a sharp rebuke to the FAA’s current efforts to lower its engineering safety standards, this aircraft on Thursday survived the event not only because of the crew’s expert landing efforts but also due to improvements in fuselage and overhead bin strength requirements, better designed seats and emergency exit standards and slides that met the regulations as flotation devices. NATCA-represented aircraft certification engineers, flight test pilots and safety professionals made sure the aviation industry complied with these regulations, despite what remains increasing pressure from FAA management to cut corners and retaliation against those who speak out against breaches in safety standards and regulations.

“This was a tremendous team effort of safety professionals doing their jobs. It is testament to the fact that despite the advances of technology, the human element makes the difference between life and death.”

NOTE: NATCA is assisting National Transportation Safety Board investigators in New York in an official capacity, having obtained “party status.” Thus, NATCA controllers and union officials are now prohibited from commenting to the media about the incident and investigation.

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