Preparing For The Worst: A Water Crash

flight-test simulation ben tracy

At HRD Aero Systems in Valencia, Calif., a fight-training center, they simulate for flight crews the very real emergency that took place on the Hudson River yesterday, CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports.

Brian Omahen of HRD Aero Systems says a water landing is called a "ditching." Planes are made to withstand them and the crew is trained to keep you alive.

"What's gonna happen?" Omahen asks. "First thing is to remain calm and listen to the flight attendant's instructions."

Carrie Curtis, a flight-attendant instructor demonstrated: "I need you to put on your seatbelts tighten them and don your lifejackets."

Once passengers have their life vests on, they prepare for impact. And when the plane hits the water, it's all about getting out quickly.

Bill Zuhoski, a survivor of the Flight 1549 ditching said: "The water came up, started to get to my neck under water, and I thought I was going to drown right there."

But flight crews are trained to evacuate a full plane in 90 seconds.

"They're really more than waitresses and waiters in the sky," said aviation expert Barry Schiff. "They've been trained to help people survive and you need to listen to them."

When escorting passengers out, they might say: "follow me to the over wing exit leg, body, leg. Do not inflate your life vest until you are over wing --leg, body, leg. Come on everyone go!"

After this point, passengers are likely standing on the wing, just like many were on Flight 1549, who then climbed into nearby ferries.

"As soon as we pulled along side they all started scrambling to the ladder and we had to kind of tell them to settle down be calm," said Carl Lucas, a ferry captain.

Others wound up in the same kind of rafts they use in training. Those need to be inflated.

Once the raft is inflated, passengers are instructed to hop in and get as far away from the plane as possible.

Of course all of this information is in these trusty safety manuals in the seatback pockets on the plane which most of us never think we would need to read.

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    Ben Tracy is a CBS News White House correspondent based in Washington, D.C.