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Miracle on the Hudson

Aired February 10, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the pilot and crew of the "Miracle on the Hudson" are here. They're going to relive their second by second accounts of what it was like...


CAPT. CHESLEY "SULLY" SULLENBERGER, PILOT, "MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON": I said to Jeff, "birds." And then a second later, they struck the aircraft.


KING: ...falling from the sky just 3,000 feet above one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Captain Sully Sullenberger feared the jet would explode or sink.


SULLENBERGER: My most important duty at that point was to open that cockpit door and shout into the cabin the order, "Evacuate!"


KING: The crew unaware they were about to ditch in the river.


SULLENBERGER: My most important duty at that point was to open that cockpit door and shout into the cabin the order, "Evacuate!"


KING: The crew unaware they were about to ditch in the river.


DOREEN WELSH, FLIGHT ATTENDANT, "MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON": And we say, "Brace, brace, heads down, stay down."


KING: A flight attendant up to her neck in water and ready to die. They braced for the loss of all 155 on board, but everybody lived to tell their incredible stories of survival. You'll hear them right now on LARRY KING LIVE.

Welcome to a very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We're in New York.

And joining us here, the captain and crew of US Airways Flight 1549. An honor to interview these heroes, all of whom have joined us.

Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot who landed the jet.

First Officer Jeffrey Skiles. He was flying the aircraft when this incident occurred.

And the three flight attendants. They are Sheila Dail, 28 years with the airline; Doreen Walsh, 38 years with the airline; and Donna Dent, 26 years.

Now, Sully, you like being called Sully, right?

SULLENBERGER: Yes, I do, Larry.

KING: Yes. OK.

This crew, had you worked together ever as a five?

SULLENBERGER: Not all five together at once. I had not met Jeff before this trip.

KING: Where had you been?

SULLENBERGER: We had started going from Charlotte to San Francisco the first night. The second night we were in Pittsburgh. Then we flew to Charlotte and back. And the third night in Pittsburgh. And the last day was Pittsburgh to Charlotte, Charlotte to New York. And this Flight 1549 was a New York-Charlotte flight.

KING: Any incident on any of the flights?

SULLENBERGER: Completely unremarkable.

KING: Any trouble with the plane?

SULLENBERGER: No, it was fine.

KING: All right, Jeffrey, what was the morning like?

Good weather?

FIRST OFFICER JEFFREY SKILES, CO-PILOT, "MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON": Yes. We had started out in Pittsburgh, flew down to Charlotte and then we flew up to LaGuardia prior to making this flight.

KING: Sheila, where were you stationed the plane?

SHEILA DAIL, FLIGHT ATTENDANT, "MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON": I was in Position C, which is up front, beside Donna. My jet seat was in -- in the forward section.

KING: Doreen, where were you?

WELSH: In the back, all the way in back.

KING: And, Donna, you were?

DONNA DENT, FLIGHT ATTENDANT, "MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON": Up front at the 1L door -- the entry door.

KING: Did you want the back?

WELSH: Yes. That's where I always flew.

KING: You like the back.

Why aren't you in uniform?

WELSH: I can't wear mine yet. I just -- I was the one that was injured and I was the one in water. And it was ripped and bloody and I just can't put it on yet.

KING: Do you have dreams about it?

WELSH: In the beginning I did. And I'm sure I will again. I have a lot to get through with that, but ...

KING: So you're not scheduled to fly again?

WELSH: Not for a while. I don't know what I'm going to do yet. I haven't -- I didn't get there yet.

KING: Are you saying you might not fly again?

WELSH: I don't know. It's too soon to -- I haven't -- it's only been, what, three weeks?

I haven't made any decisions.

KING: Sully, do you have any apprehension?

SULLENBERGER: No. I'll be going back to work as soon as I'm ready.

KING: And that would be when?

SULLENBERGER: When my sleep schedule allows. My -- my sleep has been disrupted ever since the incident. And it's going to take me some time to integrate this experience into my persona and get my sleep schedule back to normal.

KING: You mean it's in your head?

SULLENBERGER: It's -- it's distracting. And it's hard sometimes to turn off my brain at night.

KING: Huh.

Jeffrey, what about you?

SKILES: I'd have to say the same thing. That's -- that's something that all of us experienced to varying degrees after the incident, not being able to sleep. Sleep a couple hours, wake up and just replay the incident in your mind.

KING: Sheila?

DAIL: Same for me. I need to, you know, take some time at home and just feel like I can get back to being my calm self.

KING: Donna?

DENT: I will definitely fly again. I'm not sure exactly when, but probably soon.

KING: But you wouldn't want to fly tonight?

DENT: I could.

KING: You could.

But you would, then?

If they called you up and said someone in the crew ...

DENT: If they needed me, I could.

KING: All right. Let's go to that day.

Now, everything is without incident, right?

SULLENBERGER: It was a -- it was a good day. The weather in New York cleared. The airplane was in a great shape and we were all set to go.

KING: A short flight to Charlotte, right?

SULLENBERGER: Yes. Just over an hour-and-a-half.

KING: And, Jeffrey, you had the controls, right?

SKILES: That's true.

KING: How is -- what determines that?

SULLENBERGER: We take turns and we alternate. It was his turn to fly.

KING: So take me to the takeoff.

SKILES: Well, we -- it was a normal takeoff, Runway 4 in LaGuardia. And I turned left to a heading of north after takeoff...


SKILES: Cactus 1549, 700 climbing to 5,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cactus 1549, (INAUDIBLE) departure to contact. Try and maintain 1-5,000.

SKILES: Maintain 1-5,000, Cactus 1549.


SKILES: And about an hour -- or a minute-and-a-half, excuse me, into the flight, both of us just briefly saw the birds ahead of us, sort of just very shortly before they struck us.

KING: You saw them?

SKILES: Yes, just briefly.

KING: Big birds?

SKILES: Big birds. It's my feeling that they were Canada geese, just because they were all evenly spaced in a line the way Canada geese fly.

KING: Like a formation?


KING: How many?

Can you guess?

SKILES: I -- there were a number of them, but I couldn't really say.

KING: Did you see them, Sully?

SULLENBERGER: Yes, just a few seconds before they struck us.

KING: Did you have a suspicion they were going to strike?

SULLENBERGER: I thought that they probably would. And I said to Jeff, "birds." And then a second later, they struck the airplane.

KING: Is there a book as to what to do when birds strike?

SULLENBERGER: Bird strikes are not terribly uncommon. They don't happen all the time. And usually they're minor. Usually the birds are small and they attract some insignificant part of the airplane, doing no damage. And when you land, you have maintenance inspect the airplane and you're fine.

This was not that way. This was very different. There were many large birds that struck all over the airplane, pelted us like hail and severely damaged both engines.

KING: What did you make of that?

I know it's -- it's, in memory, it had to be -- did you feel like you were being attacked?

SKILES: Well, I'm sure the birds didn't intend that. But, you know, you -- you could hear them thudding against the fuselage. And then both engines went to idle power very shortly thereafter. And I think Sully and I had a feeling of almost disbelief, because it was such an unusual circumstance, not something that you normally might expect, even if an emergency situation.

KING: I'll ask what the flight attendants heard in a moment.

We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I give you a hug?

SULLENBERGER: Oh, of course.

Good to meet you.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a US Airways airline here in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The captain came on and said: "We're going to dump this plane. Brace for impact."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Coast Guard is reporting they have four ferries around and one Coast Guard (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were hitting that Hudson River with full impact. And it went boom!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Notify Division One that (INAUDIBLE) at the scene there should be 146 passengers plus five crew on that plane. Total 1-5-1, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Usually in moments like that, you would expect chaos. You know, it got real quiet.



KING: Flight attendant Sheila Dail, did you experience anything at this point now?

You've just taken off. The birds have struck.

DAIL: There was a well, bump, that you felt. And Donna and I are sitting. There's a bulkhead that, you know, the passengers aren't right there in front of us. And -- and it became very quiet. And I -- I turned to Donna and I said: "What was that?"

And she said: "I believe it was a bird strike."

KING: You knew that, Donna?

DENT: I thought that perhaps it was.

KING: Had you been hit by birds before?

DENT: Yes.

KING: Really?

DENT: Not to this extent, but yes, sir.

KING: Where on the fuselage did it hit?

DENT: It has been many, many years ago and I do not recall. I just remember ...

KING: In this flight, where did it hit?

DENT: In this flight...

KING: I mean, where did you feel it?

DENT: Oh, I -- all I remember is the loud thud. I don't remember feeling it. I just remember the sound effects.

KING: What did you hear in the back, Doreen?

WELSH: Well, it felt like we hit something. Like the airplane just stopped. Like you hit -- like there was a wall up there. I mean, not severe but a, you know, a stop and then the smell.


WELSH: Well, I guess it was like a burning. At the time, I thought maybe some electrical problem or -- because it was pretty strong in the back but...

KING: Did you smell anything, Sully?


KING: What?

SULLENBERGER: I smelled what described as the smell of burning birds -- the birds going through the engine...



SULLENBERGER: ...and air being drawn from the engines into the air conditioning system of the airplane. KING: All right.

Now, what was the first thing that happened, Jeffrey?

Did you turn the plane back over to Sully?

How did that work?

SKILES: Sully, he says, "My aircraft" -- meaning he's taking control. And I say "Your aircraft," meaning I'm giving up control. And then he actually took over control of the flying the airplane at that point.

KING: And your attempt now is to do what?

Were you -- are you without both engines?

SULLENBERGER: The thrust has been lost suddenly on both engines. And my initial focus was to lower the nose to maintain a safe flying speed -- to maintain control of the airplane while we were assessing the situation and coming up with a plan.


SULLENBERGER: This is Cactus 1539. Hit birds. We have lost thrust in both engines. We're turning back toward LaGuardia.


KING: And your role, Jeffrey?

SKILES: My role was to attempt to restart the engines at that point. We have ordered procedures that we must do to do that. It's a dual engine failure checklist, which I accessed and then started accomplishing the procedures.

KING: Were you afraid?

SKILES: I wouldn't say afraid because I had something to do. I think afraid is something more that you experience when you don't understand a situation and, you know, you have time to think about it.

KING: No frantic feeling?

SKILES: You know, the first -- there was the shock of hitting the birds. But, you know, as airline pilots doing our procedures, doing what we're trained to do, it actually helps us to fight that.

SULLENBERGER: And we were both busy.

KING: All right.

What's the training when you have no engines?

SULLENBERGER: Well, you try to restart them. In the meantime, you glide. You fly the airplane using gravity to provide the forward motion.

KING: How far can a jet glide?

SULLENBERGER: It depends on the altitude. We could go several miles, but not far enough to reach either LaGuardia or Teterboro.

KING: So you knew you were going to have to go some -- you knew you were going to have to land?

You knew you were going to crash?

SULLENBERGER: I wouldn't put it quite that way. I would say that I expected that this was not going to be like every other flight I'd flown for my entire career and it would probably not end on a runway with the airplane undamaged.

KING: Are you saying this as calmly as you were then?

SULLENBERGER: I was not this calm then, but I -- I was very focused. And we were very concentrated on the task at hand. Jeff and I both knew what the situation was. We both immediately assessed its importance. And we both knew what we needed to do. We needed to fly the airplane, decide where we would end up, while he was trying to restart the engines.

KING: Did you know they weren't going to start?

SKILES: Not at that point, no.

KING: When did you know they would not start?

SKILES: Well, there's several things that you can accomplish.

First of all, you turn the ignition on, which should probably restart the engines if they're actually running at that point. And then there are several things you accomplish to make sure that you have electrical and hydraulic power for the airplane to fly -- reset a couple of computers -- flight computers.

And then you actually reset the engine master switches, which are kind of like your computer at home. Sometimes when it acts up, if you just reboot it, it fixes the problem. And that's something that we actually do on engines now.

KING: Sully, what are you doing while he's doing that?

SULLENBERGER: Flying and figuring out what our options are.

KING: Looking out the window?

SULLENBERGER: I'm looking out the window.

KING: Talking to the control tower?

SULLENBERGER: Talking to air traffic control. And I quickly determined that we are at too low an altitude, at too slow a speed and therefore we don't have enough energy to return to LaGuardia, because it's too far away and we're headed away from it.

After briefly considering the only other nearby airport, which is Teterboro in New Jersey, I realize it's too far away. And the penalty for choosing wrongly and attempting to make a runway I could not make might be catastrophic for all us of us on the airplane, plus people on the ground.

KING: Did you talk to the passengers?

SULLENBERGER: We were so intently focused on flying the airplane, choosing a plan and restarting the engines, there wasn't time. The most important priority was determining a plan and choosing a good place to land.

KING: We'll find out what the flight attendants did while this is going on, right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 1529. A bird strike. He lost all engines. He lost the thrust in the engines. He's return immediately.


Which engines?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lost thrust in both engines, he said.



KING: OK, while this is going on, he's trying to start the engines. Obviously, they're not going to start. He's looking for a place to land.

What are you doing, Sheila?

DAIL: Well, Donna and I are sitting in our jump seat just in -- and we're aware that the plane is just coasting along. There's no engine noise. And we were just waiting.

And then, you know, when we heard Sully say, "Brace for impact," then we knew what to do.

So that time was the most anxious for me -- you know, the noise and not really knowing. But once he said "Brace for impact," then we had a job to do.

KING: Did you try to talk to the cockpit, Donna?


KING: Why not? DENT: We felt that they were very busy and would call us when and if they had a chance. We knew that something was wrong and...

KING: So you're just bracing?

DENT: When he said, "Brace for impact," yes. Bracing -- we braced for impact (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Who did he say that to?

DENT: He -- the entire campaign.

KING: Oh, that's the one announcement you made.

SULLENBERGER: I made the one announcement.

KING: "Brace for impact."

SULLENBERGER: Yes. And that was shortly before landing.

KING: What were doing?

WELSH: We were -- when he said "Brace for impact," that's just -- I don't know, a minute, how much, you know, time we had. But they were shouting their commands up front and I started doing mine from the back and...

KING: Which were telling the passengers what to do ...

WELSH: We said, "Brace. Brace. Heads down. Stay down." We just keep repeating it to get the passengers to go in a brace position and -- but we didn't have time to show them. And if they didn't take time to read their card, then some of them didn't know what to do.

KING: That's the worst thing to hear for a flight attendant, isn't it, Sheila?

DAIL: Um-hmm.

KING: That's every -- you're trained for it, right?

DAIL: Yes, but then once you hear it, you just go into automatic mode, because we -- we practice this on a yearly basis. And, you know, I've practiced it for 28 years and 38 years. And so it comes automatic.

KING: Well, I'll ask in a minute what the -- what the passengers while you're -- while they're bracing for impact.

We'll be right back with the crew of 1549. Don't go away.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I just saw a plane crash in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just saw the big splash when the plane just bounced over the water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A USAir big DC-9 or 10 has crashed into the Hudson River. Oh my gosh.


KING: Sheila, did -- did people panic?

DAIL: No, they didn't ...

KING: Nobody panicked?

DAIL: No. That was amazing. It was -- it was quiet. It was still as quiet as it was when ...

KING: When you took off ...

DAIL: ...when the engines stopped. It was just very quiet. You know, in the back of the airplane, I've heard that -- but I heard nothing up toward the front of the cabin.

KING: Well, the same for you, Donna, right?

DENT: Exactly.

KING: What about the back, Doreen?

WELSH: Well, there was stirring and people gasping. I mean there were -- it wasn't quiet. I mean it wasn't really noisy. But I mean things were -- and I know that people were making cell phone calls and getting out their phone to text and ...

KING: Now I know you're doing you're job, but are you scared?

WELSH: I was terrified.

KING: Thirty-eight years and you've got a right to be terrified.

Were you terrified?

DAIL: Um-hmm.

KING: Were you scared at this point, Jeffrey?

SKILES: No. Not really...

KING: You know you're going to impact.

SKILES: Oh, I know we're going to make a water landing, which is... KING: You know it's a water landing?

SKILES: Which is not something that is -- I mean, that's a survivable thing. And then we proved it.

KING: Now we'll ask you -- we've got a tape here for you to listen to.

You radio that you're going into the Hudson.


KING: Let's listen to the audio tapes of the last minutes before that semi-crash, if we call it a crash.



SULLENBERGER: What's over to our right?

Anything in New Jersey, maybe Teterboro?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Yes, off to your right side is Teterboro Airport.

Do you want to try to go to Teterboro?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Teterboro hand powered. Actually, a LaGuardia departure has got an emergency inbound.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tack is 15-29 over the George Washington Bridge. He wants to go to the airport right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to our airport. Check.

Does he need assistance?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He -- it was a bird strike.

Can I get him in for Runway One?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Runway One, that's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tack is 15-29. Turn right 2-8-0. You can land on Runway One at Teterboro.

SULLENBERGER: We can't do it.


Which runway would you like at Teterboro? SULLENBERGER: We're going to be in the Hudson.


KING: And how long after that did you hit the Hudson?

SULLENBERGER: I'm not sure. I have not seen the exact timeline. I would guess...

KING: What's your guess?

SULLENBERGER: I would hesitate to guess. It would be a few minutes or less.

KING: What was it like to hit the water, Jeffrey?

SKILES: At front, it was actually not that bad. It really was not. I think Doreen has a different experience in back. But in the front of the airplane, it touched, it skipped a little bit and then it seemed to bury its nose in. Water came over the windshield. And then it just popped up and was floating. It seemed to be just fine.

KING: What was your reaction, Sully?

SULLENBERGER: When we first landed and the airplane came to a stop, it was better than I expected. I sensed that the aircraft was intact, that the touchdown was survivable and that we had a good chance of getting everybody out. I was confident.

KING: Why didn't it sink?

SULLENBERGER: I think largely because the airplane remained mostly intact.

KING: At this point, what's your job? You're stopped in the water, right?

SULLENBERGER: We still had some duties to accomplish in the cockpit. And Jeff got out the evacuation checklist and began to run it. My most important duty at that point, since we had lost electrical power and the public address system would not work, was to open that cockpit door and shout into the cabin the order "Evacuate."

KING: How did you get hurt, Doreen?

WELSH: I don't know. I -- well, I had heard after that something came up through the floor in front of my jump seat. But I'm thinking I might have felt that. But I think that something happened I ran into -- or perhaps that after the water came in and I was numb and didn't feel anything.

KING: What happened to you physically?

WELSH: Oh, I have a -- a cut. It's like I ran into something like an L-shape, like this. And it was deep.

KING: Were you in a lot of pain?

WELSH: So I was numb until I got to the front of the aircraft. I didn't even know it until I got up -- I had find -- it ended up, I made it all of the way to the front door. And I went on the raft at Sheila's door.

And that's when I felt woozy and looked down and there was all that blood and...

KING: What was it like?

What was it like, Sheila, helping people off the plane?

DAIL: Well, when the plane came to a stop and Sully said, "Evacuate," Donna went to her door, I went to my door. And Donna said: "Wait a minute, we're still moving."

And I guess we were in the water and moving.

And then she said: "No, wait. We're in the water."

But I was at my door. And I assessed and I could tell that the water level was not up to my door. So I went ahead and opened my -- we both opened our doors. And -- and my raft immediately inflated.

KING: Was it very cold that day?

DAIL: Um-hmm. Very cold.

KING: So that hit you right away.

DAIL: Um-hmm.

KING: A clear day, at least.

DAIL: Yes.

KING: You're on the water.

What did you expect the people to do?

DAIL: Well, I did -- I didn't know what to expect. You know, we're taught to expect a lot of different things. You know, we're taught -- you know, in recurrent training, you know, the plane might break into parts. It didn't.

The overhead bins did not open. I mean, things were working really well for us.

And they didn't rush us, you know?

They gave us time to get the door open. I had a handhold and we started yelling our commands: "Come this way. Down like this. Leave belongings."

And people just were orderly. KING: Speaking of that -- what people did.

We'll find out after this.


KING: Now this is a fearful scene. What did people do, Donna? Did -- were they -- did they rush? Did they push each other out of the plane? What?

DENT: It was very civilized. It was very orderly.

KING: I could tell I was not on this plane.


DENT: It was incredible. They did very well, a very educated group of travelers. I think that helped a lot. We had a lot of frequent flyers.

KING: Any get out of the back, Doreen?

WALSH: Well, it was different. Once a passenger came back and cracked the door open is why the water came in back there. So we had a whole different story back there. There was some panic as that water was rising. And it was, you know, louder. There was screaming and I was physically telling everybody to get a move. There were a few people that were in shock and were just going to stand there, as I did for a second as the water was coming up.

I thought, well, this is it. So I had to snap those people in the back out of that and keep them -- so I got pretty loud and made some of them crawl over seats, because we never would have made it all up the aisle.

KING: Sully, what were you doing while they were doing that?

SULLENBERGER: I was attempting to assist the evacuation in front.

KING: So you went into the --

SULLENBERGER: I went into the cabin, and I --

KING: The cabin?

SULLENBERGER: I noticed there were people bunched up in the middle of the airplane, near the over-wing exits. And I called for them to come forward and use the forward exits and get into the raft, which they did.

I also began to gather up life vests, jackets, coats, and blankets to give those outside, to keep them warm.

KING: What were you doing, Jeffrey?

SKILES: As Sully said, I was accomplishing the evacuation checklist, I guess maybe 45 seconds that would take me, and then I went back and the airplane was already about half evacuated at that point.

And Sully mentioned that nobody was taking their life vests with them. So he assigned me to take the life vests from underneath the seats, which is where they're located, and start tossing them out on the wing for the passengers who are walking out on the wings.

KING: Were you surprised at how all of the people around from New York area that helped?

SULLENBERGER: I was pleasantly surprised how quickly and efficiently all of the rescue vessels approached us and began to take passengers off. Before I left the airplane, there were already vessels around us rescuing passengers.

KING: You don't like to tout your own bravery, but how did this work, Jeffrey? Why are you all living?

SKILES: I think it's a lot of things. It's we all did our jobs. Sully did his job. I did my job. Sheila, Doreen, and Donna did their jobs. And the passengers did their jobs. They quietly got out of the airplane, did what they had to do, got out on the wings. As you say, no pushing, no shoving. And then certainly the people in the boats who came to -- came to save us.

I mean, at that point, we were just in this very cold river and we needed to be saved at that point. So there are a lot of heroes here.

KING: Combination of miracles?

SKILES: I wouldn't say that.


SKILES: I would still say that it's just everybody did our jobs and we had good fortune as well.

KING: So there was luck involved.

SKILES: I would say that.

KING: Did anyone on the plane, anyone act erratically? No?

DAIL: I heard, but I -- you know, of a woman who tried to take her luggage with her, which, you know, we said, leave belongings. And, you know. I wasn't there, but I just heard a couple of stories, but I can't verify that they even happened.

KING: What did you think, Sully, when they all lined up on the wing, those that did? SULLENBERGER: That photograph is obviously an iconic image of this entire event. On the one hand, I was gratified that we got everybody out, that everyone thus far was safe and they were being rescued. But I instructed the rescue vessels that were within earshot of me to rescue people on the wings first, because they were obviously in a more precarious position and getting much colder than we in the rafts.

KING: You went back through twice, right, to make sure everyone was off?

SULLENBERGER: I had time. I could leave no chance that there would be anybody left behind.

KING: The aftermath, after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are getting word that all the passengers, 126 of them, and five crew members are off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 125 people on board, all of them, including one infant, safe tonight because of a masterful landing by the two pilots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A miracle, miracle story.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: This is a story of heroes, something straight out of a movie script.

GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: I believe now we've had a miracle on the Hudson.


KING: We have a couple of e-mails from Kevin in Scottsdale, Arizona: "Congratulations on a job well done. So that we may understand more, what was the approximate air speed at impact?"

SULLENBERGER: I have not seen the data. I would hesitate to guess. But we were just above our minimum flying speed. I very closely achieved the parameters I was trying to achieve.

KING: What's that? About 160 miles an hour?

SULLENBERGER: It would be less than that.

KING: From Volney (ph), in Kingston: "What was the teamwork like between you and your co-pilot? What part does a co-pilot play in a situation like this?"

SULLENBERGER: Well, we call his job "first officer," and --

KING: Not a co-pilot anymore? SULLENBERGER: And in Jeff's case, he had been a captain before at this airline, before all of the layoffs and cutbacks, on a different airplane. So he is a highly experienced veteran also.

It -- his job is to assist me, and we're a team of near equals. There is ultimately one decision-maker. But we both work together closely as a team.

KING: An e-mail from Gene in Sellersburg, Indiana: "Is there any way to shield the engines of a jet plane from ingesting birds, like maybe a heavy metal grill that would let sufficient air through but prevent the bird's mass from severely damaging the engine?"

SKILES: I've heard that quite a bit since this incident. That seems to be everybody's idea. Obviously that would be more something you would ask --


SKILES: -- the engineers who designed the engines. But any kind of grill creates tremendous air drag, and would certainly, you know, dramatically affect the performance of the engine.

KING: Aftermath, you're all honored, got a huge ovation at the Super Bowl. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please welcome the crew of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 who helped safely rescue 150 passengers on New York's Hudson River last month.



KING: Well, that must have been nice, huh?

SULLENBERGER: "Super" doesn't do it justice. It was my first Super Bowl, what a spectacle, just incredible. It was a privilege to be there.

SKILES: It was pretty incredible just being there and having all of those people waving.

KING: Same for all of you?

WALSH: As a diehard Steeler fan, it was my dream come true.


KING: You describe a little of what the aftermath has been like. You have trouble sleeping, still do, Sully?


KING: What, do you dream or do you have nightmares?

SULLENBERGER: I wake up and can't go back to sleep.

KING: And that's not a previous --


KING: -- happening of yours.

SULLENBERGER: No, no, never.

KING: What happens to you, Jeffrey?

SKILES: Same thing. It gets better with time, though. I mean, it certainly has gotten better for me already. And this -- it's a normal post-traumatic shock reaction.

KING: Sheila?

DAIL: Well, I go to sleep, but I wake up and just my mind starts thinking about it.

KING: Doreen, you're having a worse time, right?

WALSH: Well, yes, I was in that water, within a few more seconds, I -- you know, so I had a different -- you know, I mean, I had seconds to get out of there before I would have been drowned. So I have some water dreams and I have some things I need to work out.

KING: Are you getting help?

WALSH: Yes, I am.

KING: Donna?

DENT: I compartmentalize, put it in a box, put a lid on it --

KING: You do?

DENT: -- and try not to think about it.

KING: Do you fear, Sully, that the first time you're going to be a little nervous?

SULLENBERGER: No. I've ridden on an airplane many times since, although I have not acted as a pilot on an airplane. But I have visited my colleagues in the cockpit and flied. And for a few seconds, it seemed a little bit different than usual, but quickly felt right at home.

KING: We'll be back with more. Don't go away.


KING: One other -- a couple of other things on the rescue, Jeffrey, seeing all of those people -- New York people, various transit people, people coming from various emergency units, did that surprise you?

SKILES: I certainly didn't expect the response that fast. As Sully alluded to earlier, by the time we left the airplane, there were so many boats already there that there are almost too many to rescue us all.

It was quite a response from all of the ferries and, you know, cruise ship -- cruise boats that were going by.

KING: That's New Yorkers, Sully, as you've come to learn.

SULLENBERGER: We love New York.

KING: And they gave you the key yesterday to the city.

SULLENBERGER: Yes, they did. What an amazing experience.

KING: Mayor Bloomberg was very nice and --


SULLENBERGER: Very gracious, wonderful host. We felt very well taken care of.

KING: Are you surprised everyone lived?

SULLENBERGER: Having this crew, I'm not surprised. I'm grateful. I'm grateful. I could not rest until I knew that everyone was accounted for and everyone was safe.

KING: Captain feels responsible for the people on the plane?


KING: But you did nothing wrong.

SULLENBERGER: We did the best we could in the situation we faced, in the time we had available to us.

KING: Can you imagine what it was like for those at home, knowing that their loved ones just crashed into the Hudson River? Family members next.



KING: We're back. Let's meet some relatives. Laurie Sullenberger, the wife of Sully Sullenberger, Barbara Skiles, the wife of first officer Jeffrey Skiles, and Flight attendant Doreen Welsh's son Tim.

Laurie, how did you hear about this?

LAURIE SULLENBERGER, WIFE OF CHESLEY SULLENBERGER: Sully called me from one of the ferry boats afterwards. I hadn't been watching television. So I had no idea.

KING: What did he say?

L. SULLENBERGER: He was due home that evening. We knew it was a close connection. So I was expecting him to call, actually. And he called and just said, I'm OK. I thought that meant that he was going to be on the flight coming home. I said, OK. He said, there's been an incident. I thought that meant that he wasn't coming home. Again, I said, OK.

Then he said, we hit geese and we had to ditch in the Hudson River. I turned on the television about that time, started to shake violently. He said, I'll call you back later. That was it, hung up.

KING: That's Sully, I bet he wasn't excited.

L. SULLENBERGER: He was brief.

KING: Barbara, how did you hear?

BARBARA SKILES, WIFE OF FIRST OFFICER JEFFREY SKILES: Very similar story. The first we knew about it was a phone call from Jeff. My kids were home from school that day, because we live in Wisconsin and it was one of those days that was too cold to even hold school. We didn't have the television on, either.

So I get a phone call from Jeff and it was probably a 20 second call. He said something to the affect of, we had to ditch the plane in the Hudson, but I want you to know I'm OK and we're pretty sure we got everyone off the plane OK. And I can't talk very long. I'm borrowing a phone.

So that was it. I'm like in shock. I called to the kids, turn the television on. Sure enough, it was already live coverage on television. So --

KING: Tim, how did you hear about your mom?

TIM WELSH, SON OF FLIGHT ATTENDANT DOREEN WELSH: I had just talked to her a couple minutes before she was boarding. So I knew what flight she was on. Everything went as usually. I jumped in the shower, was heading out for the evening. I heard my phone ring three or four times while I was in the shower. I got off, looked at my cell phone. It was a number I didn't notice. I figured, maybe I'll call them back, didn't know the number.

Just as I went to call them back, I got a text message from the same number that said, your mother was in a plane crash. She's hurt, but OK.

So my heart sank. I went and started calling this number back, and put on the news at the same time, saw a plane floating in the river.

KING: What's the post-reaction to this, Laurie?

L. SULLENBERGER: It's complicated. I told people for our family, it's like a multi-layered onion, is how I describe. There's various parts. There was the accident. There was, for us, the celebration. People want to celebrate, but we weren't quite ready to celebrate. And then all the media attention.

It's hard. It's something that your brain allows in slowly. So we're slowly absorbing that into our reality.

KING: What's been yours, Barbara?

B. SKILES: Very similar. It's been such a world wind since the accident, that it's kind of hard to sit down and really reflect on it. But, you know, the media attention has been very overwhelming, but I say to everybody, I don't really mind, because it was a happy ending.

KING: What an ending.

B. SKILES: Yes. So I don't mind talking to people about it.

KING: Can you understand how both your husbands are still absorbing it?

B. SKILES: Oh, absolutely.

KING: Can you understand, Tim, that your mom is having a tough time?

T. WELSH: Oh, I can understand, because, I mean, I'm having a hard time. I can't even imagine what she's going through, what they're going through. I mean, it's something I don't think anybody could ever imagine.

KING: Do you want her not to fly again?

T. WELSH: Yes. I don't know how I could put up with her in the sky again. That would be pretty hard.

WELSH: When I got out of surgery at 8:00 pm, the first face I saw was his. He just grabbed what he could and ran to the airport and called US Air on the way. I mean, he was remarkable. So --

KING: Do you have any problems flying, Laurie?

L. SULLENBERGER: No. I tell people that for years, when people ask me about my husband flying, I say, you know, flying is a very safe mode of transportation. I've never been afraid of him flying. So the odds of anything happening in his crew were so remote that --I mean, that's what made this so hard to believe. I know that Barb and I have had this conversation, that my husband, out of tens of thousands of flights every day -- my husband? That's just really hard to believe.

But I know it's still very safe though. We don't have a problem. He goes back on -- KING: Do you have any problem, Barbara?

B. SKILES: No. I have been asked that question a lot. I tell people, I worry more about him driving to the airport than I really do once he's in the air, because it's, over all, a very safe mode of travel.

KING: Tim, obviously you don't. You flew -- you ran to the airport.

T. WELSH: Yes, I worry about her flying. But for me, just mathematically, I understand -- I'm sort of a math kind of guy. I understand it's a very safe way to travel. It's just different, you know, care more about somebody else than yourself. It's kind of --

KING: Got you. Thank you all very much. One of Flight 1549's passengers was inspired to write a song about this miracle. She's going to perform it for us when we come back.


KING: Emma Sophina was a passenger on that flight. She was in seat 13-F. She's a singer/song writer. By the way, what was it like for you?

EMMA SOPHINA, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 1549: I was actually really calm. I think it's a testimony of my faith in god and -- but I did think that was it, I was going home. It was my time to go.

KING: Were you sitting by the window?

SOPHINA: I was, but I was on the wing, so I actually couldn't see anything. But I also didn't have any orientation at all. So, being Australian, look, I didn't even know there was a Hudson River, for all I know. So, you know?

KING: You happened to write a song about all of this. How did that come about?

SOPHINA: Yeah, the idea was given to me a few days afterwards and I rewrote the lyrics so that it was applicable to say thank you to God, and to everybody.

KING: All right. Let's hear it. This is Emma Sophina, passenger on the flight, and this is "Send Another Prayer" in dedication to the pilots and the crew.


KING: Emma Sophina. Come on over, Emma. Emma Sophina.

We'll be back tomorrow night. And we've got more with the crew. And get this, some of the passengers on the miracle flight will join us with their own riveting accounts. They can't thank Sully and the crew enough. Rescuers are here, too. It's all part of a reunion on LARRY KING LIVE, tomorrow night. Tell us what you think about this show, or any other. Go to and click onto our blog. Time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360".