Congratulations to US Airways, New York City's rescue workers, and above all, the crew of Flight 1549 for giving the nation exactly what it needs right now - a healthy shot of good news.That all 155 aboard that flight survived Thursday's touchdown in the Hudson River is being described as miraculous. "Thank God," was a common response from survivors and commentators alike.
But there is also this: Everything worked. Everything seems to have performed as intended. It looks as if people did the right thing, remembered their training and kept their heads. Given so much that has happened in recent months, that is heartening and worth remembering.
U.S. air carriers have gone two consecutive years without a fatality. That is a record and includes last month's crash in Denver, in which no one died despite the aircraft being destroyed.
Still, things happen. Life is like that, and there is little we can do about it. In this case, it would seem from initial reports that the pilot reported a "double bird strike" soon after takeoff from New York's La Guardia airport. Speculation centered on Canada geese, birds big enough to foul both engines. Having lost power at low altitude, the plane went down.
But what ensued was more a water landing than a crash.
The pilot put the plane down so gently that the aircraft appeared undamaged and floated long enough for all aboard to get out in an orderly manner.
Most of the passengers transferred into nearby boats without even getting wet. The New York Times says the pilot then walked the plane twice to check that everyone had been evacuated.
How good does it get? It is unlikely either passengers or crew would care to repeat the experience, but think of what went right.
The pilots appear to have performed perfectly. The touchdown was clearly superb.
The aircraft - a European-built Airbus A-320 - did all that could have been asked of it.
Not only did it survive the landing intact, it protected its passengers long enough for them to be rescued.
The cabin crew and passengers must have also handled themselves well. Maybe those required speeches we all talk or read through at the beginning of every flight really work. The cabin attendants certainly deserve more respect than they are often accorded.
Then, too, there are the rescue workers and others who responded. In minutes, the plane was surrounded by boats, including a Coast Guard cutter, and the police had divers in the water. The plane's passengers are sure to have thankful tales of their reception.
There were minor injuries reported, although at this writing the number is unknown.
But a serious tragedy was averted because the systems, equipment, procedures and personnel involved worked as intended. Throw in a little of the good will with which everyday people so routinely respond to emergencies, and what could have been a disaster has a happy ending.
After events at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the meltdown of the financial sector and the stock market, the Bernie Madoff and Rod Blagojevich scandals, and the other messes that surround us, it is hard not to think that incompetence and venality are the norm.
The story of Flight 1549 stands in welcome contrast to that.
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