January 23, 2014
Oregon Observer ConnectOregonWI.com
asked me for an autograph or a photo or, ‘How did it feel when you hit the birds.’ It’s never happened.”And that’s something he continues to cherish.“I appreciated that so much – that I could just live my normal life in Oregon and be the person that I’ve always been before and after this happened. It really helped to create a sense of normalcy for me because of the way I was treated by the Oregon community.”
Skiles was 49 years old and piloting US Airways Flight 1549 on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009, as it left New York City’s LaGuardia Air-port. Just 90 seconds after takeoff, at an elevation of about 3,000 feet, the plane carrying 150 passengers and five crewmembers col-lided with a flock of Can-ada geese, disabling both engines.As the aircraft’s flight engineer and first officer, Skiles turned the plane’s controls over to Capt. Sul-lenberger.Skiles, who at the time had worked for US Airways for 24 years, said it was his first time flying an Airbus and he’d recently completed training to operate the air-liner. It was also the first time he’d flown with Sullen-berger.“I didn’t know Sully, but I knew exactly what he would do in any set of circumstanc-es, and that’s how we inter-acted with each other,” he said. “We take the person-alities out of it and surround ourselves with procedure.”While Sullenberger flew the plane and communicat-ed with air traffic control-lers about possible places to land the powerless airliner, Skiles scoured his emer-gency checklist for ways to regain power and consider other steps to take under the circumstances.Under normal conditions, having two pilots in the cockpit is useful because “we have two sets of eyes and two brains to crosscheck everything so that we can cut down on errors,” Skiles said.But in an emergency, the protocol changes.“When we have an emer-gency situation, we kind of split duties,” Skiles explained. “One person flies the airplane while the other tries to handle the emergen-cy – in this case, trying to make sure that we have both hydraulic and electric power and trying to possibly restart the engines.“And that’s assigned by two words: Sully said, ‘My aircraft.’ That meant he was going to take over flying the airplane, which is his pre-rogative as the captain, but it also meant that I instantly became a troubleshooter.”In a National Public Radio interview last week on the anniversary of the event, Sullenberger noted that Skiles was the better person to handle the emer-gency checklist because he had recently finished train-ing and studying emergency responses.“That’s very valid think-ing, because literally when I went through training I had conducted this particular procedure just two weeks before on the simulator,” Skiles said.The entire incident hap-pened in less than four min-utes.Sullenberger managed to avoid catastrophe by landing the Airbus in the icy waters of the Hudson River. He put the plane down just minutes by boat from Manhattan’s commuter ferry terminals, enabling rescuers to quickly recover all passengers and crew from the lifeboats they had boarded. At the time, aviation experts said they could not recall another successfully controlled water landing by a commercial airliner in the United States.The flight crew was ordered not to talk publicly about the ordeal until the National Transportation Safety Board had completed its investigation.Like the rest of the crew, Skiles suffered from post-traumatic stress after the inci-dent. He had trouble sleeping for a couple of weeks and quickly lost 20 pounds.But, he points out, there were no long-term negative effects. He didn’t develop a fear of flying and still flies regularly.
Not a ‘miracle’
Contrary to the media hype and the notions of some in the public, the suc-cessful landing was not a miracle, Skiles said. Rather, it was the result of inten-sive training, a professional crew following protocol, and “kind of a revolutionary shift in how we think in avi-ation” in the past 20 years. “We started saying, let’s look at how the people oper-ate. Let’s look at how people interact with each other,” he explained. “Instead of hav-ing individuals in the cock-pit, let’s have a team in the cockpit. And really that’s the biggest difference.”He compared it to the teamwork of a professional football team.Skiles said in the aviation world, the event was viewed as an example of not what went wrong, but what went right. “We used the training and the tools and procedures that had been developed by a liv-ing, breathing safety organi-zation over the course of the last 15 or 20 years,” he said. “Sully and I would use that as sort of the end product.”He noted that US Air-lines alone had five major accidents between 1989 and 1994. “Since then, they haven’t had one at all,” he said, and pointed out that the last fatal accident of a major carrier in the United States was in 2001.Skiles asserted that when people understand the indus-try changes that took place and know about the hard work that went into them, the miracle myth “is kind of stripped away.”He found it peculiar that after it happened, “so many people seemed to identify personally with this event who had absolutely noth-ing to do with it. You know, people who watched it on TV.“People see things in a situation or in people that they look at to validate their own beliefs,” he contin-ued. “It’s kind of odd when you’re on the other side and people are coming up to you and for whatever reason, the incident meant more to them than it did to you – and you were there.”
Still an airline pilot
Skiles has been on a leave of absence from US Air-ways since the incident. He chose to take the time off to pursue other aspects of the industry, and served as vice president of an airline pilots association that lob-bies in Washington, D.C., for airline safety.Like his partner in his-tory, Sullenberger, shortly after the emergency land-ing Skiles accepted speak-ing engagements around the country.“Both Sully and I recog-nized and used the visibil-ity that this has afforded us to work for the good of our profession,” he said.“Sully continues to do that by being on TV talking about safety issues and using his tremendous visibility to advance airline safety issues. I actually got myself elected to be the vice president of an organization called the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association, which repre-sents about 28,000 pilots in this country.”Skiles worked with the association for two years and then accepted a job with the EAA in Oshkosh, where he is vice president of chap-ters and youth education.“I travel around the coun-try speaking on behalf of the EAA,” he said.His leave from US Air-ways will expire in a year or so, at which point he’ll have to decide whether to return to professional flying or continue on his current path.He hasn’t decided yet, but seems to be heading back to the grueling schedule of a commercial airline pilot.“I can tell you that I’m an airline pilot,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been my whole life; it’s what my self-image is. And it’s going to be hard to walk away from what I am.”Professional pilots typi-cally are away from home four days per week and then are off for three days. It’s a career that presents challenges to family life and the pilots themselves. “You live almost in a state of permanent exhaustion because you have constantly rotating schedules and lim-ited opportunity for sleep,” Skiles said.If he decides to return to his former job, it will be a little easier now that two of his kids are grown and liv-ing away from home, while his third is a junior at Ore-gon High School.“I am very fortunate to have a wife who understands that because that’s the way it’s always been. I’ve been a pilot for our entire marriage, and one way or another, you’re gone a lot.”At 54, Skiles is aware that “I certainly don’t have as many years ahead of me as I do behind me. I’ve been thinking about how I want to live the rest of my life – and I’m an airline pilot. That’s my view of myself.”
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Skiles has lived in Oregon with family for 20 years
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polar vortex, as a factor in depleting the village’s sup-ply.Last May the village ordered 460 tons of road salt a cost of about $40,000 for this season. That amount will typically be enough for a winter season. Salt usu-ally sells for $60 to $64 per ton; the price to resupply the village was on the high end of that cost because of increased demand this win-ter.Village road crews began using a 50/50 mix of salt and sand after Jan. 1 in an attempt to make the salt go further, Below said. He directed employees to use salt sparingly and stop spreading it on the entire stretch of village streets and instead use it at intersections and other strategic locations.“We’re applying it a little more on the major corridors and trying to keep them as clear as possible,” he said, “and then on side streets we’re just doing the stop signs and hills, of course.”The village uses four dump trucks with snow-plows on the front and salt-ers attached to the rear, as well as one five-ton pickup, to clear roads and spread salt and sand.Below explained that the village buys salt through a consortium of municipali-ties. Each year, long before the snow flies, the village reserves its allotment of salt.Salt is mass-produced by evaporation of seawater or brine from brine wells and salt lakes. Mining of rock salt is also a major source. China is the world’s main supplier of salt, followed by the United States.Below said most of the salt that’s used in Wisconsin comes via freighters on the Great Lakes and is dumped to form “a mountain of salt” in Milwaukee. From there, it’s typically distributed to municipalities throughout the state by truck.
All 150 passengers were able to exit safely from Flight 1549 after the plane hit a flock of geese during takeoff. Skiles credited the teamwork of the crew and modern tactics rather than a miracle.
Village now adding sand
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Scott De Laruelle
Oregon road crews have been mixing sand with road salt in a 50/50 mixture with the New Year.