Chesley ”Sully” Sullenberger III, center, smiles as his former passengers thank him during a February 2009 appearance on CBS’s “The Early Show” in New York. (Jason Decrow/AP)

Jan. 15, 2009 Passengers had just settled in for US Airways Flight 1549 from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte when they heard a thump-thump-thump-thump. The next sound, passenger Darren Beck told The Washington Post, was the voice of pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III, saying, “Brace for impact.”

The plane, carrying 155 passengers and crew, had collided with a flock of geese.

“Facing life-and-death choices, the pilot avoided a catastrophic crash in the Bronx or in northern Manhattan,” The Post reported, and “steered the aircraft to a skittering splashdown that left the fuselage intact.” But the plane soon began to sink in the river’s frigid water. Ferry, tour boat and tugboat crews sprang into action and “tossed life vests to the stranded passengers and began hoisting them up ladders” until police and the U.S. Coast Guard arrived.

The event was dubbed “the Miracle on the Hudson.” Sullenberger was initially hailed as a hero by aviation experts and elected officials, including President Bush. Later a National Transportation Safety Board inquiry called his actions into question, contending he could have landed the plane at an airport. Sullenberger was ultimately vindicated. Clint Eastwood turned that ordeal into the film “Sully,” starring Tom Hanks, which was released in September.

Annys Shin