Friday, July 20, 2012

Miracle On the Hudson - Life or Death

Cell Phone Photo by Janis Krums

Click here for video link of US Airways Flight 1549 simulation

On 15 January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 departed from New York City's LaGuardia Airport.

The pilot was Captain Chesley Sullenberger III.

Flocking Geese                       (c) K Fleming

Roughly a minute into the flight,
and at just under 3,000 feet,
the passenger jet flew through a flock of geese, incapacitating both engines. 

This event led to an extraordinary feat of white-knuckle flying, thinking outside the box, and emergency landing; it subsequently set in motion seemingly unrelated events of technological and reportorial magnitude.

After alerting the La Guardia control tower of the situation, the pilot focused on keeping his aircraft aloft and doing a visual search for a landing path that would not take him over a populated area where he could cause the least damage if he had to crash land, all the while with Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) asking him for status and providing him guidance.

Pilot's Perspective: River? or, crash into populated area?
Viewing the simulation, it's easy to see that Sullenberger had limited options.

1) Return to LaGuardia was over a densely populated flight path;
2) Diverting to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey was only five minutes away, but the flight path was over densely populated areas.
3) ATCs in NY and NJ were pressuring him to divert to a nearby airport for a conventional landing.

At this point, at a little over one minute of flight time, the plane was losing altitude at about 100 feet per second, and had already dropped to less than 1,000 feet. 
Sullenberger interrupts the NY ATC who was pressuring him to go to Teterboro [NJ]:

                                   "We can't do it; we have to do the Hudson."

By now, the plane has dropped to an altitude of less than 200 feet  and is flying over the Hudson River [which separates New York City from New Jersey]; the ATCs in New York and New Jersey have lost him on their radar and continue to press for updates.  Sullenberger is able to generate some lift, bringing the plane back up to 350 feet, but three seconds later, he has ditched in the Hudson River.

On the descent, the flight crew has prepared the passengers for the emergency landing.

NY Waterways Ferry Recovery             (c) Sacramento Bee

Within 30 seconds, they have opened the exits and have moved a number of passengers onto the wings of the aircraft and launched several life rafts.  A little over two minutes later, a NY Waterways ferry is on the scene collecting the passengers from the wings.

This was an amazing bit of flying, with Captain Sullenberger remaining calm and focused throughout the flight.  He had a unique background; a Texan of Swiss heritage, an honor student with a Mensa intellect, and a rated pilot before he finished high school.

USAFA Cadet Sullenberger

As a freshman at the US Air Force Academy, he was enrolled in the Glider program, and by the end of the year, he was rated as an Instructor Pilot.

After graduation, he attended graduate school at Purdue University, and then flew the Phantom F4 fighters.

He also served on an aircraft accident investigation board.

This event was extraordinary enough in its own right.

And, with coverage by the Main Stream Media [MSM], it would have appeared on the evening news as an "Item of Interest" with most potential viewers missing the visuals and the story.

Janis Krums - a Rawporter
But, 21st technology kicked in with Twitter and Instant Media corps of citizen reporters, on the scene with their camera phones -- iPhones and Droids, to capture events as they happened -- with network and print reporters hours away. 

Janis Krums was aboard a ferry when Flight 1549 landed on the Hudson River.  He tweeted his iPhone photo [our lead photo above] to 170 Twitter friends, and the photo went viral almost instantly to millions of viewers around the world, with consequent interviews on network TV.
[Click here for interview with Janis Krums]

The extraordinary thing about this event and Krums' photo is that it set in motion an entirely new generation of photo-journalism.  In the past, Media photographers lugged around large bags of cameras and special lenses, responding to editors' demands to
"Get photographers and a film crew to that news site now!
Given deadlines, those visuals might be delayed. 

With the accidental pioneer work of Krums, Media photographers and film crews became instantly obsolete.  Many cell phone cameras now have resolution comparable to the professional level cameras at 6 - 10 Megapixels, so the average person at the scene with a modern cell phone [Droid or iPhone] can capture dynamic photos or videos instantly and Tweet them around the world in seconds. 

Matthew Van Dyke's on the scene reporting in Libya
[Click here for link]

One issue remained from a professional perspective, which was that Krums, and instant reporters like him, were giving away their photos via Twitter, and the MSM could exploit the photos without benefit to the instant reporters.

It didn't take long for some bright entrepreneurs to remedy this problem by creating Rawporter, LLC [] to become the interface between on the scene "instant reporters" and the News Media. 

Matthew Van Dyke's image [above] shows coverage of an anti-aircraft barrage in Libya -- as it happened.

Presto Chango, instant reporters became "Rawporters" sending in "raw" coverage of news as it was happening, via Rawporter, to the News Media -- and they now can get paid.  Rawporter launched this past year with a Beta version so Users could test and evaluate the App, and the company has upgraded appropriately. 

The implications for the news media are startling.  Overnight, technology has torn away control over what's available on the news and placed those decisions in the hands [or cameras] of average citizens who can now "seize the moment" and feed it to a broadcast venue anxious for instant coverage of a fast-breaking news event.

Ready for a Live Feed!            (c) Dreamworks

If a TV station wants to be competitive, it must adapt, and on a 24/7 basis. 

Staff reporters are an overhead expense, and can't be everywhere at once -- but individuals with iPhones and Droids are generally at the scene, witnessing the event -- and sharing it with their friends via their phones.

Technology becomes a political weapon as well, since citizen reporting carried the message of the Arab Spring, the Libyan Revolution, and the Syrian Civil War.

 These images appear around the clock, along with on-the-scene witnesses, capturing the event for history -- and the 11:00 news.