Co-pilot from 'Miracle on the Hudson' addresses local business summit

Sunday, October 7, 2012
Jeff Skiles, who was the copilot of US Airways Flight 1549, which made an emergency landing in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, speaks during the Saint Francis Medical Center Business Summit Friday, October 5, at Saint Francis Medical Center. (ADAM VOGLER)

In a crisis, effective training overcomes what might otherwise be panic, the co-pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, which made an emergency landing in the Hudson River in 2009, told about 80 people at the annual Saint Francis Business Health Summit on Friday.

As co-pilot during the flight coined the "Miracle on the Hudson," Jeff Skiles teamed with Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger to help save the 155 passengers aboard the flight.

During the summit's keynote address Skiles said what he took away from the incident was just how valuable training and procedures he'd been following for so many years were.

"It comes to you when you need it. That really surprised me because I never thought it would," said Skiles, who got his pilot's license when he was 17. "All this training, all the years of experience really paid off."

Everything seemed typical Jan. 15, 2009, until Skiles spotted a formation of Canada geese on the right side of his aircraft. Skiles, who was flying the plane manually at the time was relieved when the nose of the plane rose above the geese, but that relief was short-lived. A few seconds later, he heard four distinct thunks as the birds crashed into the engines of the plane. Both engines immediately failed.

"At the time, I never really thought it was all that dangerous. I guess I just thought it would always work out and that we would succeed and we did," Skiles said.

Crew members working together helped ensure the passengers remained safe, something they'd practiced for years, he said.

"Today, a pilot doesn't fly an airliner, a crew flies an airliner," he said. "You fail because you don't work as a team."

Although Skiles and Sullenberger had just met three days before this flight, they were able to work together because of the system and training they had in place. Skiles said many of the same concepts used in the airline business can help other businesses as well.

In addition to traveling the country to speaking to groups about the lessons he's learned from the Miracle on the Hudson, Skiles now works with the Experimental Aircraft Association, where he is co-chairman of the association's Young Eagle Program. This program, through a worldwide network of chapters works to give children ages 8 to 17 an introduction to aviation. The association also hosts the nation's largest air show in Oshkosh, Wis., each year and operates an aviation museum.

Skiles' father was a private aircraft pilot and he grew up flying, he said. He said aviation has always been part of his life.

Other topics discussed during the summit included handling poisons in the workplace, ergonomics, pain management and sleep disturbances.


Pertinent address:

211 Saint Francis Drive, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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