Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's quick-thinking actions in the "Miracle on the Hudson" were highly praised, but documents released today by the National Transportation Safety Board said the hero pilot could have possibly avoided the unprecedented water landing -- but just barely.
After losing his engines to a flock of geese, Captain Sullenberger would have had to immediately decide to successfully return back to LaGuardia Airport with no time to think of whether he'd safely land the Airbus A320 in time.
He also would have had to evaluate the risk of crashing into a populated region.
In the final judgment, the documents concluded that the now retired pilot made the right choice. Especially considering he saved everyone on board.
"Although an emergency return to LaGuardia Runway 13 was technically feasible from an aircraft flight performance point of view, the emergency landing on the Hudson seems the most appropriate decision," the plane's manufacturer, Airbus, said in an assessment submitted to the board.
The near-tragedy occurred on January 15, 2009, when U.S. Airways flight 1549, en route to North Carolina, hit Canadian geese causing power failure in both engines.
Capt. Sullenberger instinctively decided to land the plane on the Hudson River. All 155 passengers and crew members survived and escaped onto the wings of the almost-submerged plane.
The NTSB also laid out a set of safety suggestions today for what pilots should do in the event of a similar scenario.
The board recommended that pilots be better trained to know what to do if engines lose power when they are at a lower altitude, and to better train pilots for water landings.
They also said engines should be modified to be able to endure large geese, and airports should have better plans for avoiding the birds and other creatures.