US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s remarkable ditching of his Airbus A320 in the Hudson River is undoubtedly the most famous forced landing of all time. But ever since the beginning of flight, pilots have been taught to constantly keep in some small com­partment of their aviator’s toolbox the thought that maybe, just maybe, something will someday require them to land in a way and at a place not of their choosing. Fixed-wing pilots even practice it, though unless an actual runway is available it’s a kind of emergency interruptus exercise, never carried to its conclusion. (Helicopter pilots practice autorotations to the ground, an adrenaline-pumping maneuver.)

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