US Airways Flight 1549

Content curatorship, exhibition design, graphic design

Designer at
Freeman Ryan Design

Carolina’s Aviation Museum

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA


© Freeman Ryan Design






Shortly after taking off from New York’s La Guardia Airport on January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese and lost power to both engines. Losing altitude fast and with no certainty of reaching a runway, Captain Chesley Sullenberger chose to ditch into the freezing Hudson River. Everyone on board survived. The incident became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson”.

The damaged airframe was acquired by Carolinas Aviation Museum (CAM), Charlotte, North Carolina and is on display in the condition it was when just pulled out of the Hudson River on January 2009, rather than being restored to its pre-incident condition.

Freeman Ryan Design was involved in the project from its very conception. CAM President’s vision to acquire the auctioned airframe, enabled the Airbus A320 to finally arrive at its designated destination four years late. With the CAM President, we pitched the idea to Charlotte City, Airbus and US Airways who all were enthused and greatly contributed to accruing, transporting and assembling the airframe for a museum display.

An exciting and uncharted part of the project was to document and conserve the airframe, none of which had been done before with a water soaked composite aircraft.  Every part of the aircraft was photographed and every item in the fuselage bagged before the plane was dried and travelled its long journey from New Jersey to North Carolina.

With the museum, we researched content, images, stories and artefacts to tell the story of the ‘miracle’ event. We were given valuable stories, images and information from Captain Sullenberger, NTSB, Airbus, US Airways, onlookers and the passengers, most of whom live in Charlotte.

The A320 dominated and dwarfed the other military and civilian aircraft on the museum hanger floor. Similar to a game of Tetris, we planned the new museum layout to fit the rest of the collection, while also telling a clear and engaging narrative of aviation history.

The museum was transformed from a day-light filled aircraft hanger into an evocative aviation museum.

In 2013, Carolinas Aviation Museum won the Award of Excellence from the North Carolina Museum Council (NCMC).