Thursday, March 4, 2010

An event I was happy to witness....

Wednesday March 3, 2010 was a special day for someone - and I got to witness a little part of it from a distance. Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger retired from US Airways after a long and of course, we know, distinguished career. Who will forget the "Miracle on the Hudson" - that event that stands out in aviation history for the sheer magnitude of what took place.

But, back to Wednesday March 3, 2010. I don't know who chose the final flight or how it turned out this way, but, the last flight was chosen as US Airways (Cactus) 1167 from Ft Lauderdale to Charlotte. What was planned in this flight was that First Office Jeff Skiles, the first officer during the Hudson flight was in the cockpit for this final flight. Being very close to Hollywood/Ft Lauderdale International Airport, I was able to go and witness the departure of the final flight. It was a cold, cloudy Ft Lauderdale afternoon and the wind was cooling the temperature quite a bit on the top of the Hibiscus parking garage.

Just after 1:10pm, Cactus 1167 pushed back from the gate. This was in a little bit of sunlight, the last we would see with this departure.

Once the taxi clearance was given, it was a pleasant but very nice surprise to see them given a clearance across the active runway 27R and down taxiway Alpha to the holding point of runway 27R. Needless to say, there were no complaints from the line of about 6 aircraft that were on taxiway Bravo waiting at the holding point already.

At the end of the taxiway, the tower controller read a very nice tribute to Captain Sullenberger on behalf of all the staff at Ft Lauderdale and then clearance was given to line up and hold. In his normal professional voice, there was an acknowledgement of "Thank You" and then a few seconds later, "Confirm Cactus 1167 cleared to line up and hold". As the landing jetBlue Airbus cleared the runway, take off clearance was given. No waiting - just a straight throttle up and the Airbus A321 powered down runway 27R.

The cloudy skies greeted the Airbus as it lifted off the runway and powered into the gray afternoon sky.

After the final tower communication was given and acknowledged, the airwaves were filled with comments of "Bye Sully" from several other crews on the frequency, and then there was a quiet "Thank You" and the flight was on it's way to Charlotte.

For those that are interested, I have downloaded the ground and tower communications for this event from The communications file is here. Cactus 1167 communications begins at around 15:08 into the MP3.

I have to add a personal note here. After listening to all the communications involved in this event, the whole "Hudson Miracle" event and aftermath and having just finished reading Sully's book "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters", I have nothing but admiration for a person I consider the consummate professional. I wish him well in his retirement - a retirement that I think is only from US Airways, but not from the industry.

Another note - these are the first real pictures from my new D200 - its taking a little bit of getting used to! But, some more time spent behind the camera lens....