Jet-Crash Tapes Show Instant Disaster, Calm Crew

Cockpit recorders on US Airways Flight 1549 indicate both engines failed at 3,200 feet, soon after takeoff, federal officials said. The crew was reportedly very collected, including the flight attendants, now official heroes.

The engines went out within 90 seconds of takeoff. Everyone was very chill, said a member of the National Transportation Safety Board:

“It was a very routine conversation, that’s how I would characterize it. I was more nervous than they appeared to be, listening to it.”

The captain diverged from standard procedure, having his co-pilot try and restart the engines rather than work the radio. Possibly as a result, his declaration of "Mayday" was not heard by ground controllers. But Chelsey Sullenberger III's seasoned, rational response to the crisis inside the cockpit will probably only add to his legend as a hero who saved the lives of all 155 passengers. (He's now at the inauguration, having not yet had time to reconnect with his wife and children in Danville, California.)

The NTSB is also keen to have the airplane's flight attendants added to the roster of heroes, along with Sullenberger and, presumably, his cabin crew. Reports the Times:

Ms. Higgins [of the NTSB] said one reason everyone survived was that the plane carried “very senior flight attendants.” All were in their 50s, according to US Airways. “This is a testament to experienced women doing their jobs, because they were, and it worked,” said Ms. Higgins, who has worked for several federal agencies since 1969.

Maybe there should be one big Oprah episode, involving everyone who was on the plane? After the inauguration, naturally. Or maybe Anderson Cooper will assemble everyone first.