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AFA-CWA: Flight Attendants’ Professionalism, Safety Training Saved Lives of Flight 1549 Passengers

When US Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing in New York City’s Hudson River, the flight attendants’ professionalism and safety training were instrumental in the evacuation of all 150 passengers, said the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA).

Flight 1549 departed from New York’s LaGuardia airport shortly after 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 15. Within minutes, the plane reportedly lost power in both engines, likely after striking a large flock of birds. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was credited with navigating a safe water landing in the Hudson.

AFA-CWA US Airways President Mike Flores pointed out that this incident marks the first time in the history of aviation that a commercial jet made a successful emergency water ditching, and the crew should be commended.

"Once the aircraft came to rest in the water, the years of experience and training of the flight attendants took over. All 150 passengers were safely evacuated and the crew was the last to exit the aircraft. That did not happen because of luck. The only way this happened was because flight attendants are first and foremost safety professionals, trained for an event such as occurred yesterday afternoon,” he said.

Flight Attendants are Safety Professionals

The flight attendants included Shelia Dail, 57, who joined the airline in 1980; Doreen Welsh, 58, who has more than 38 years experience with US Airways; and Donna Dent, 51, who joined the airline in 1982. In addition to Sullenberger, the flight was piloted by First Officer Jeffrey B. Skiles, 49, who has more than 15,000 flight hours.

“US Airways is extremely proud of the professional crew of Flight 1549,” the company said in a statement. “All five of these outstanding aviation professionals performed in an exceptional way under extraordinary circumstances.”

Flores added that flight attendants “are often not viewed as the safety professionals that we are. I know that for at least the 150 people aboard Flight 1549 yesterday, flight attendants are now looked at in a new light and the world should be reminded that flight attendants are safety professionals whose primary purpose onboard an aircraft is to save lives.

"We are all so proud of the crew of flight 1549 – but we also know that anyone in our profession would have performed in the same manner,” said Flores.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent a 20-person team to New York City to investigate the accident.

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