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Jan 2017

Miracle On The Hudson: How One Small Part Made A Difference

Porous Metal

Did you know that Mott engineered porous metal can save lives? An U.S. Airways flight from New York, NY, to Charlotte, NC, proved just that.

On the afternoon of January 15, 2009, U.S. Airways flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport bound for Charlotte Douglas International Airport, but never made it to Charlotte. Just two minutes into the flight, the plane ran into a flock of Canadian Geese. The birds were drawn into the plane’s engines. Soon, both engines shut down.

With the plane at only a 3,000-feet altitude, there was no chance of gliding back to the airport. Instead, Captain Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III decided to ditch the plane in the nearby Hudson River. He brought the plane in gently enough to keep it afloat. The 155 passengers and crew members were quickly rescued by city ferry boats.

Before he could safely land the plane, Sully needed to turn from the Northbound takeoff to the West and then to the South in order to get aligned with the river. He also needed to adjust the plane’s angle, so the nose was tilted slightly upward.

How did he make these adjustments without any power from the engines?

The answer is a small turbine wheel that drives a generator. The wheel is stored in a compartment of the plane’s underbelly and can be lowered by an air-powered actuator in order to spin freely beneath the body. As long as the plane is moving, the wheel will spin.

The generator provides enough power for the plane’s controls; however, it will not generate any power if solids, such as bird parts, have blocked the air supply line for the actuator. A Mott engineered porous metal component, designed to fit less than one inch in diameter, was installed in the air supply line to allow for air to pass but not solids. This part was engineered to meet the exact filtration efficiency and specifications needed to help ensure the turbine would function in an emergency.  

If it had not been for the stringent quality standards Mott places for all its products and engineering collaboration between Mott and the turbine wheel supplier, this essential part that saved 155 lives could have failed. Critical precision at its finest!

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