ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 10 . Two heroes of the emergency landing of Flight 1549 into the icy waters of New York's Hudson River last January will visit the Twin Cities area this month to host a Wings of Mercy benefit and fundraiser.
Patrick Harten, the quick-thinking flight controller, who helped Flight 1549 Captain Chelsey (Sully) Sullenberger choose an emergency response, and cool-headed flight attendant Doreen Welsh, who shepherded panicky passengers out of the rear of the aircraft, will headline the Wings fundraising event at 6 pm, Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Buffalo, Minn., municipal airport.
Wings of Mercy, Minnesota Inc. (Wings) is a free, volunteer medical air transportation service using FAA certified pilots, licensed nurses and other health care professionals to transport patients who are in financial need to appropriate health care institutions. Wings serves the Upper Midwest region of Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin with approximately 300 mercy flights each year.
Industry officials have praised both Harten and Welsh for their teamwork contributing to the "miracle" outcome of Flight 1549, where all 155 passengers and crew defied the odds and survived a crash landing into the river virtually without injury.
Controller Harten was cited for his calm demeanor, including the way he gave options to Sullenberger, how he cleared another airport for an emergency landing, how he cleared competing air traffic away, and how he did not overburden the flight crew by requesting unnecessary information.
Flight attendant Welsh cut her leg badly as she worked to calm passengers stuck in the back of the sinking plane. As one passenger tried to open a rear door to escape and water came rushing in, Welsh quickly shut the door preventing water from filling the cabin, and ordered the passenger to "turn around, you've got to get out on the wing."
In riveting testimony before a congressional oversight panel, Harten recalled his emotions as he watched how bird intakes into the engines of "Cactus 1549" (Sullenberger's plane) caused the plane to loose power and disappear from his radar screen.
"The Captain said: 'We're gonna be in the Hudson.'
I asked him to repeat himself, even though I heard him just fine. I simply could not wrap my mind around those words. People don't survive landings on the Hudson River; I thought it was his own death sentence. I believed at that moment, I was going to be the last person to talk to anyone on that plane alive.
I then lost radio contact with 1549, and the target disappeared from my radar screen as he dropped below the tops of the New York City skyscrapers. I was in shock. I was sure the plane had gone down.
Less than a minute later, 1549 flickered back onto my radar scope. The aircraft was at a very low altitude, but its return to radar coverage meant that there was a possibility 1549 had regained the use of one of its engines.
Grasping at that tiny glimmer of hope, I told 1549 that it could land at EWR seven miles away on Runway 29, but I received no response. I then lost radar contact again, this time for good.
I was relieved from my position a few minutes later, as soon as it was possible. I was in no position to continue to work air traffic. It was the lowest low I had ever felt. I wanted to talk to my wife. But I knew if I tried to speak or even heard her voice, I would fall apart completely.
I settled for a hasty text message: 'Had a Crash. Not OK. Can't talk now.'
When I got home, she told me she thought I had been in a car accident. Truth was, I felt like I'd been hit by a bus."
Harten and Welsh are just two examples of the many professionals that day who contributed timely, seasoned response and helped avert a calamity.
Said Captain Sullenberger: "We would not have had as successful an outcome on January 15, 2009 without effective teamwork. First Officer Jeffrey Skiles and I were able to focus on the tasks at hand because we knew that Flight Attendants Doreen Welsh, Donna Dent and Sheila Dail were there to use their skill and experience to ensure the safety of our passengers, and air traffic controller Patrick Harten provided us with the assistance we needed to choose the best alternative. I am proud of what this team was able to accomplish and they have my gratitude."
Tickets are still available for the event by calling 651-238-8920, or through the Wings of Mercy website at www.wingsofmercymn.org. The evening will feature a combination pig roast and air show. Cost is $75.
SOURCE Wings Of Mercy, Minnesota Inc.