10 Dramatic Photos from 2009's Miracle on the Hudson Plane Landing

On Jan. 15, 2009, pilots Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles safely guided their disabled airplane to a safe water landing on New York City's Hudson River

01 of 10
US Airways Flight 1549 descends, upper right corner, on its way to an emergency ditching in the Hudson River
Trela Media/AP/Shutterstock

On a clear January day in 2009, US Airways flight 1549 hit a flock of geese shortly after takeoff from New York City's LaGuardia Airport. As the engines powered down and pilots Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles decided an emergency landing wasn't an option, they expertly landed the plane atop N.Y.C.'s Hudson River, in an event later dubbed "Miracle on the Hudson." Everyone on board survived.

02 of 10
A US Airways jetliner is seen after it crashed into the Hudson River
AP Photo/Greg Lam Pak Ng

New Yorkers flocked to office windows to watch the plane float on the river as ferries came to passengers' rescue. "What's remarkable is that every choice we made turned out to be the one that led to the best outcome," Sullenberger told PEOPLE when recalling the day in a 2016 interview.

03 of 10
Passengers in an inflatable raft prepare to move away from an Airbus 320 US Airways aircraft that has gone down in the Hudson River
Bebeto Matthews/AP/Shutterstock

"As soon as we landed on the water, I knew this was going to be a life-changing event," Sullenberger told PEOPLE in 2016.

And while it was a miracle, several passengers on board did suffer injuries, and many passengers and crew members spoke of the emotional and mental trauma they suffered in the years following.

04 of 10
Airline passengers wait to board a ferry to be rescued on the wings of a US Airways Airbus 320 jetliner that safely ditched in the frigid waters of the Hudson River
Steven Day/AP/Shutterstock

In a memorable image from the day, passengers exited the plane and stood on the wings and inflatable rafts, waiting for rescue.

05 of 10
US Airways Flight 1549 crashes in Hudson River
John Roca/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Local ferries immediately came to the rescue, transporting passengers safely to land as the plane took in water.

06 of 10
Onlookers Line the Hillside As Rescue Workers Surround a Us Airways Airbus A320 Flight Number 1549 Which Crashed Into the Hudson River
Justin Lane/EPA/Shutterstock

"I think for everyone on that airplane this was about getting a second chance," Sullenberger told PEOPLE. He was right: in a 2010 PEOPLE catchup, one couple who was aboard the plane said they got married in the months following the crash; another couple adopted a child; and two strangers from the flight fell in love.

07 of 10
An Airbus 320 US Airways aircraft that went down in the Hudson River
AP Photo/Edouard H. R. Gluck

"This was one of those events that divides your life into before and after," Sullenberger told PEOPLE.

08 of 10
Resue boats surround a U.S. Airways jetliner that ditched in the Hudson River
AP Photo/Alexandre Valerio

Boats from the fire department, police department and Coast Guard dotted the water as rescue efforts continued.

09 of 10
An Airbus 320 US Airways aircraft that went down in the Hudson River
Edouard H R Gluck/AP/Shutterstock

Two days after the incident, the plane was pulled from the Hudson River and examined by the National Transportation Safety Board. Most of its remains are now on display at the Carolinas Aviation Museum (now named for Sullenberger) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

10 of 10
Pilot Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger
Andrew Theodorakis/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Sullenberger's story came to the big screen in the 2016 film Sully starring Tom Hanks. In his PEOPLE profile that same year, Sullenberger said his main mission was to lobby to make flying safer.

"It may be," he said, "that my greatest contributions still lie ahead."

Related Articles