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On January 15, 2009, about 1527 eastern standard time,1 US Airways flight 1549, an Airbus Industrie A320-214, N106US, experienced an almost total loss of thrust in both engines after encountering a flock of birds and was subsequently ditched on the Hudson River about 8.5 miles from LaGuardia Airport (LGA), New York City, New York. The flight was en route to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), Charlotte, North Carolina, and had departed LGA about 2 minutes before the in-flight event occurred. The 150 passengers, including a lap-held child, and 5 crewmembers evacuated the airplane via the forward and overwing exits. One flight attendant and four passengers received serious injuries, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The scheduled, domestic passenger flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 121 on an instrument flight rules flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Require quick-release girts and handholds on all evacuation slides and ramp/slide combinations.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Unacceptable Action
Weehawken, NJ, United States
Loss of Thrust in Both Engines, US Airways Flight 1549 Airbus Industrie A320-214, N106US
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FAA (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Safety Recommendation History
The NTSB disagrees with the FAA’s decision not to require that ramp/slides be equipped with quick release girts and handholds. The FAA reached this decision because its review of ramp/slides installed at overwing exits found they are located completely or partially below the waterline defined in the floatation analysis for the airplane. As a result, the ramp/slides are not considered usable after a ditching. In the letter that transmitted this recommendation to the FAA, we stated the following: The off-wing Type IV ramp/slides were not designed to be used during a water evacuation or required to have quick-release girts or handholds; however, they automatically deployed as designed when the overwing exits were opened after the ditching. Some passengers immediately recognized their usefulness and boarded the ramp/slides to get out of the water. Eventually, about 8 passengers succeeded in boarding the left off-wing slide and about 21 passengers, including the lap-held child, succeeded in boarding the right off-wing ramp/slide. Although passengers attempted to disconnect the off-wing ramp/slides from the airplane, they were unable to do so because the ramp/slides did not have quick-release girts like slides and slide/rafts. The NTSB recognizes that A320 off-wing slides are not currently part of the EOW [extended overwater] equipment on the airplane and are not designed to be used by passengers in this manner. However, this accident clearly demonstrates that passengers can and will successfully use the off-wing ramp/slides as a means of flotation in an emergency if they are available. However, the lack of quick-release girts prevented passengers from being able to disconnect the slides, and, if the airplane had sunk more quickly, the passengers would have had to abandon them and enter the water. Therefore, adding quick-release girts on all evacuation slides could be one method to prevent passenger immersion after an accident involving water. The analysis used by the FAA as the basis for its decision not to take the recommended action ignores our findings from the US Airways flight 1549 accident investigation. The FAA also indicated that it considers its action in response to this recommendation to be complete and it plans no further action. Consequently, Safety Recommendation A-10-80 is classified CLOSED—UNACCEPTABLE ACTION.
The FAA pointed out that Part 25 does not currently require quick-release girts for inflatable escape slides or handholds for inflatable slides or liferafts; however, Technical Standard Order (TSO) C69C requires quick-release girts for this equipment. The FAA plans to evaluate the addition of quick release girts to ramp/slides and handholds on slides and ramp slides, and take action based on this evaluation. Accordingly, pending the recommended revision of the TSO, Safety Recommendation A-10-80 is classified OPEN – ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
CC# 201100130: - From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: Life rafts and/or slide/rafts are located on each airplane based on available exits as determined in part by the floatation analysis. For the subject airplane, the aft exits were designated as ditching exits as they provide the best means for escape under most scenarios. We reviewed the accident with respect to the ditching regulations. We have determined that the airplane impacted the water at a vertical descent rate outside the envelope of a foreseeable ditching event. As a result, the airplane sustained more aft fuselage damage than had been considered in the ditching analysis. This extensive damage allowed water to flood the aft end of the fuselage which was not considered in the floatation analysis. The FAA is not considering changes to the requirements for the location of the life rafts and/or slide/rafts as this equipment should be accessible, with sufficient capacity, under foreseeable ditching scenarios. I believe we have satisfactorily responded to this safety recommendation, and I consider our actions complete.
CC# 201000368: - From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: Current part 25 requirements do not specifically require quick-release girts for the inflatable escape slides or handholds for inflatable slides or life rafts. However, Technical Standard Order TSO-C69C requires quick-release girts for this equipment, with the exception of ramp/slides. We will evaluate the addition of quick release girts to ramp/slides and handholds on slides and ramp slides, and take action based on our evaluation results.
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