What a Splash!

"Daddy, the plane turned into a boat" said the daughter of Martin Sosa, who was a passenger on the now infamous US Airways flight 1549 of 16th January. This was the flight that was involved in the amazing emergency landing in the Hudson River that we all heard about in the media last weekend. (Observer, 18 January 2009)

The stories of real heroism from last Friday's miraculous experience are plentiful and heartwarming. Thank goodness for the sheer dedication of the professionals who got involved in the landing and rescue missions that saved the lives of all passengers and crew. In particular, the pilot has been rightly praised for his skill and devotion to duty.

But how about the amazing resilience of the aircraft that survived this most extreme of circumstances? Just how do you design and build an aircraft that can cope with the failure of two engines, followed by the crash landing in the water ... with pretty much every piece intact?!!

For many years, I have enjoyed working with engineers and manufacturing folks from different parts of the aerospace industry. We've had many an intellectual tussle over their propensity to check and re-check, with me encouraging them to "see failure as part of the learning process." But when you see something as astonishing as Friday's emergency landing on water, you can see the payoff for their discipline and consistency. Okay, so future excellence in aerospace will be dependent on some lateral and out-of-the-box thinking, but let's not forget to treasure the mastery and expertise that delivers today's excellence. Bravo ladies and gentlemen of the aerospace industry!