What’s It Like to Be in a Plane Crash?

Ric Elias shares the life lessons he learned while his plane crashed into the Hudson River
TIMEDecember 28, 2014

Every time there’s news of a plane crash or disappearing plane, my mind immediately goes to what it would have been like to be on that plane. How long did passengers and crew know they were in trouble before disaster struck? What was the atmosphere on the plane? What goes through a person’s mind?

Tragically, those questions go unanswered in some situations. But some plane crash survivors have generously shared their experiences and insights.

Ric Elias was sitting in seat 1D aboard US Airways Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York City on Jan. 15, 2009. In a TED Talk, Elias shares what went through his mind as the plane went down, in those moments before what he thought was impending death.

Here are the three important things he learned about himself that day and how it’s affected his life ever since.

1. “I learned that it all changes in an instant.” And as a result, “I no longer want to postpone anything in life.”

2. “I regretted time I wasted in things that did not matter, with people that matter.” And as a result of the regret, he made a life-changing decision: “I decided to eliminate negative from my life.”

3. “Dying is not scary … But it was very sad.” “That sadness really framed in one thought: I only wish for one thing, I only wish i could see my kids grow up.” “The only thing that matters in life is being great dad.”

Elias’s parting thought is a positive, sobering one: “I was given the gift of a miracle of not dying that day. I was given another gift which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently.”


Cindy Drukier is a veteran journalist, editor, and producer. She's the host of NTD's The Nation Speaks featured on EpochTV.