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What you might not know about the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ on its 10th anniversary

Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when tragedy was averted by a cool-headed and courageous pilot just minutes after his Charlotte-bound plane took off from New York.

On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport with 150 passengers and five crew members on board. It soon hit a flock of migrating Canada geese and both engines shut down. But Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was able to successfully glide the plane to rest on the surface of the Hudson River. Passengers got wet, but all survived, with no serious injuries.

The captain, crew and many of the passengers will be in Charlotte on Tuesday to talk about what happened then and since — and to gather at the Carolinas Aviation Museum, where the plane is on display.

Here, according to the aviation museum, are five things to know on this anniversary a decade later:

3:31 p.m.

That’s the exact time Flight 1549 touched down on the Hudson River..

So at that time on Tuesday, the passengers who are in Charlotte for the anniversary will join with Sullenberger and other crew members for a celebratory toast at the aviation museum.

Charlotte leaders are inviting others to also pause at that time, recount any special moment or personal miracle experienced over the last 10 years and share it on video, photo or text via social media.

Use the hashtag #MiracleMoment.

Lots of babies

More than 50 children and grandchildren have been added to the passengers’ families since they survived that day in 2009, according to a survey conducted by the aviation museum.

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More results from the “life changes” survey will be released on Tuesday.

Miracle on Hudson
A wing from US Airways Flight 1549 arrives at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Sept. 15, 2011. Transported on two flatbed trucks, the two wings left a warehouse in New Jersey. Workers reattached the wings to the fuselage, which was already on display at the museum. Todd Sumlin tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

In big pieces

The plane that Sullenberger landed on the Hudson River was shipped — in pieces — to the aviation museum in Charlotte.

The fuselage, or main body, of Flight 1549 arrived by truck in June 2011 after an eight-day journey from New Jersey. The wings and the “horizontal stabilizer” — i.e., the back of the plane — also arrived by truck. J. Supor & Son, a trucking and rigging company, tried to stay on the interstate most of the way. But occasionally, it had to haul its big loads along city roads. That meant getting permits and arranging for street lights to be taken down ahead of time.

A year later, in 2012, the engines arrived at the museum in six large crates.

Putting it all back together

The next monumental chore was to reassemble the plane.

A large group helped out — volunteers from American Airlines as well as folks from Airbus, Disaster One, Hunter Wrecker (which flipped the wings) and Freeman Ryan Design, an Australian outfit that specializes in aviation museum exhibitions.

Also playing a key role: engineering students at UNC Charlotte. For safety reasons, the museum decided not to display the plane on its landing gear — that is, on its wheels. Instead, the engineering students designed a display stand.

The restored and preserved plane has been exhibited at the aviation museum since September 2012.

Its tail nearly touches the ceiling.

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And because the museum is planning to relocate, the plane will have to be moved again. “It’ll be a shorter trip this time,” said Katie Swaringen, vice president of education and collections at the museum.

Miracle on Hudson(6)
Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger stands in front of the US Airways Flight 1549 fuselage at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in June 2011. He and other crew members met that year with passengers to recall their memorable water landing and to celebrate the plane’s arrival at the museum. They are gathering again Tuesday. Todd Sumlin tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

By the numbers

19,663 — The number of hours Sullenberger had accumulated as a commercial airline pilot by Jan. 15, 2009.

2,818 — The plane’s elevation in feet when it collided with a flock of geese, disabling the engines. (For comparison, the top of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in North Carolina, is at 6,684 feet.)

60 — The percentage of the passengers on board that day who were from the Charlotte area. Many of them were bankers and other financial industry professionals flying home on a Thursday afternoon after working most of the week in New York.

5 — The number of crew members on board.

4 — The number of birds that went into the engines after the flock struck the plane. By the way, the industry term for the remains of a bird after it has collided with a plane is “snarge.”

Tim Funk has covered faith & values for the Charlotte Observer for 15 years. He has won three national awards from the Religion News Association and numerous awards from the North Carolina Press Association. He has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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