Florida Rescue Workers Ready For Water Landings

Jan. 16, 2009
Firefighters in Central Florida said that they're trained to get passengers safely to shore.

ORLANDO, Fla. --

Pilots may not have much of a choice in an emergency landing, but rescue crews in Orange County said they're ready in the event of a water landing.

Video: Rescuers Ready For Water Landing

Landing on a runway is ideal, but in an emergency, a pilot can't be picky.

One local school trains future pilots what to do when a plane is going down.

Firefighters in Central Florida said that they're trained to get passengers safely to shore.

A simulator at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach helps them to learn.

"You train the way you fly, and fly the way you train," said associate professor Michele Halleran.

Halleran said it's simulators that train future pilots to handle emergencies.

A US Airways jet crashes into the Hudson River in New York City.

Less than a minute into the flight from New York to North Carolina, officials said a flock of birds took out both engines on U.S. Airways Flight 1549.

"You're looking at two exemplary pilots doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing," Halleran said. "It was a phenomenal job."

The pilots couldn't turn back to LaGuardia, and tried to divert to an airport in nearby New Jersey but couldn't make it.

Halleran said practice paid off.

"If you're going to choose a water landing versus a populated area on pavement, you're going to choose the water," she said. "Obviously they didn't have a lot of time to do a lot of checklists. Their ditching procedures looked like were right on."

The plane was submerged up to its windows in the Hudson River when rescuers arrived.

Orange County's 1,000 firefighters are trained and certified for a similar surface rescue.

If a plane goes down in water, 10 boats are stationed throughout the county on standby.

Firefighters assess the number of passengers, the size of the plane and hazards in the water, and then rush in to get passengers out.

Firefighters train with planes in conjunction with the Orlando International Airport.

To comment on this story, send an e-mail to Kendra Oestreich.

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