It was over thirty years ago that I watched with horror the aftermath of the crash of Air Florida Flight 90. It had slammed into the 14th Street Bridge, which was walking distance from my North Arlington apartment. The news crews were providing live coverage of the rescue of the five people who survived the crash, and in the process were showing a woman drowning in the icy Potomac. With the rescue personnel on the banks attempting to inflate a raft, Lenny Skutnik dove in and rescued a drowning woman. It was the most mesmerizing thing I’d ever seen on television until, of course, 9/11.
Skutnik was my hero until Captain Chesley Sullenberger floated that Airbus A320 into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. Known as the Miracle on the Hudson, I never knew how many factors lead to the survival of the 155 souls on that plane until today when I visited the Charlotte Aviation Museum and learned all about this amazing event.
Standing next to any commercial airliner is an awe-inspiring moment. [I remember once when my father, an employee of American Airlines, came home with the story about “The Savior.” He was on tour to see the new Boeing 747, and had wondered if “The Savior” was what was going to “save” the airline industry. When they entered the hangar to see this behemoth, the group murmured a collective “Jesus Christ,” to which the tour guide said: “That’s why we call her ‘The Savior’.”] Of course this Miracle airbus is not near the size of a 747, but it’s big, and there were enough holes and shattered windows to give anyone a good idea of just how hard this plane hit the water, and how the hole in its belly caused it to sink.
There’s a movie to watch, and much to read and see about the event. It’s a great activity for un-impressionable children, but trust me when I say that everyone we saw there appeared pretty emotional in the presence of that aircraft.
There’s also a bi-plane, a Phantom jet (which you can climb into), the Tomcat that was used in the opening credits of the “Top Gun” movie, a two-seater Cessna, and several other aircraft, all of which made the trip to this museum well-worth our time. The museum is adjacent to the Charlotte airport, a short cab ride if you have a seriously delayed flight, and you should know it is NOT air-conditioned.