On January 15, 2009, Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City, en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. Moments into the flight, however, birds flew into both engines of the Airbus A320 airplane, and the plane lost all engine power. Less than four minutes after takeoff, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger guided the plane into the Hudson, saving all 155 people on board. The emergency water landing soon became known as “the Miracle on the Hudson.”
As the crew and frightened passengers sat on rafts awaiting rescue, AIG entered the picture, as the provider of the aviation liability policy that covered Flight 1549. This particular policy, however, only goes into effect when the plane crash is the fault of the airline or crew, and it quickly became apparent that the crash was due to the geese that flew into the engines. AIG and US Airways realized that the passengers needed care regardless of the crash’s cause, as some had suffered hypothermia and other injuries. Even though the policy didn’t require it, AIG issued payments to cover all the expenses related to emergency care, providing US Airways the ability to give each passenger $5,000 to cover any immediate needs.
After the well-being of every passenger and crew member was addressed, the issue of personal property arose. Passengers had lost property after leaving behind personal items such as laptops and purses when the plane took on water. AIG settled all claims related to the incident without the need for litigation.
Meanwhile, investigators went to work to determine the official cause of the crash. In 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that Sullenberger could have reached LaGuardia instead of landing in the river, but he would have endangered others by doing so. This conclusion confirmed he had made the right decision.
With the claims settled and the investigation over, AIG needed to determine what to do with the plane. Since AIG was also the insurer of the plane itself, the aircraft came into AIG’s possession once it had been declared a total loss. Many offered to take it off AIG’s hands, including one person who wanted it as a collector’s item and another who sought to turn it into a diner. Ultimately, AIG donated it to the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina—Flight 1549’s original destination on January 15, 2009.