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Charlotte Museum to Display Flight 1549 Airbus

Exhibit will honor the 'Miracle' flight and evolution of modern aviation

1549
The Hudson River Airbus in storage in New Jersey

January 6, 2011 — The Airbus A320 that landed in the New York’s Hudson River in January 2009 is close to reaching its original intended destination. The Carolinas Aviation Museum (CAM) is finalizing a purchase with Chartis, the aircraft insurer that owns the plane and will bring it to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the original destination of US Airways 1549. CAM plans to display the aircraft, fully assembled, in the same configuration it was in when it was pulled from the water. The display is intended as a celebration of advancements in modern commercial aviation that made the Hudson River landing not that “miraculous.”

The Airbus airframe is currently still in storage in New Jersey following completion of the NTSB investigation. Several museums including the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum were vying for the plane but backed out and the CAM, known for its Cold War-era fighter collection and Piedmont Airlines DC-3, prevailed.

CAM President Shawn Dorsch said that unlike other museum aircraft that are restored, the A320 will be displayed as-is. “We’re not going to restore the airplane; we’re going to conserve it,” Dorsch said. “We are going to leave all the NTSB investigation marks on it, any dents, because that is part of the story.”

Dorsch’s inspiration for the exhibit came from a Japanese display created by Japan Airlines. The chronological exhibit showed how safety enhancements in the more than 20 years since the crash of JAL 123 contributed to all the things that went right for US Airways 1549, which was the final entry in the exhibit’s timeline.

“I realized then that US Airways 1549 had worldwide appeal and historical significance,” Dorsch said.

The first stage of the project begins soon as museum officials will travel to New Jersey to catalog every last item on the airplane, which aside from personal items still remain, right down to the cans of soda on the beverage carts. The exhibit will focus on the events of that cold January day when Sully Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles landed the aircraft on the river. Dorsch said the aircraft will also serve as a centerpiece to show how many safety and technology advancements, such as Crew Resource Management, training, air traffic control, accident investigation, and aircraft design, allow airframes like the A320 and Boeing 737 to launch every few seconds around the world without incident.

The exhibit is ambitious and complex in scope, but has many major players in the Hudson landing lending a hand. CAM has the cooperation of US Airways, and some mechanics have offered to help in the assembly of the exhibit. Airbus will also be contributing to the project, including a unique partnership with the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, where aeronautical engineering students will participate in designing the structure that will support the aircraft, which will be exhibited with gear retracted. Dorsch said that program will last several years as engineering work will continue to be needed as the exhibit evolves.

Sully Sullenberger is also contributing to the exhibit: He donated his uniform that he wore that day. “I am delighted that the airplane will be displayed at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, which was not only the destination of Flight 1549, but also the city that many of the passengers call home,” Sullenberger said in a statement to EAA. “I appreciate that the aircraft will be displayed intact – it is an important part of aviation history and I am glad people will have access to it and be inspired by a remarkable event that has touched so many lives.”

Transport of the aircraft is slated for May, and Dorsch hopes the main elements, such as the wings and tail, will be reattached to the fuselage by the end of the summer.

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