A piece of American history will soon travel on North Carolina highways as the “Miracle on the Hudson” jetliner gets closer to wrapping up its trip from New Jersey to its permanent home at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte. The US Airways Airbus A320 was on its way to Charlotte from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Jan. 15, 2009 when a bird strike shut down its engines right after takeoff. Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III managed to land the plane in the Hudson River, and all 155 passengers and crew were rescued by a flotilla of boats.
The transfer of the plane’s fuselage to its final home at the museum has been a monumental task. The company that had been storing the plane in a warehouse near Newark, NJ since it helped haul it out of the water built a special 120-foot hauling trailer with six steering axles for the job.
With the plane on board, the tractor-trailer weighs 254,000 pounds, is 149 feet long, 15-feet 6-inches high and 15 feet wide. The wings were taken off the plane and transported separately to Charlotte. An oversize/overweight permit has been obtained from the N.C. Department of Transportation for its trip in North Carolina.
Taking up two lanes, the plane began the more than 800-mile trip to Charlotte Saturday, and has had to avoid low bridges and go around toll booths. In some locations, utility lines and traffic signals had to be temporarily taken down to allow the trailer to get through. After reaching southern New Jersey last weekend, it went down I-95 before taking I-70 near Baltimore. Then, it took I-68 into West Virginia before going south through the mountains on I-79. The caravan got on I-77 South in Charleston today, and is expected to stop for the night near Bluefield, where I-77 and the West Virginia Turnpike intersect.
It will continue on I-77 into North Carolina on Thursday, then get on I-85 in Charlotte on Friday morning. It will exit onto Billy Graham Parkway, turn onto West Boulevard, and continue on Yorkmont Road to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport Air Cargo terminal. The museum is adjacent to the airport.
The plane's fuselage is partially uncovered during the trip so people can see it as it travels by. Thus far, thousands of people have stopped along the highways or on overpasses to get a look.
On Saturday, there will be a private reception and showing for Capt. Sullenberger, other members of his crew and the passengers who in many cases will be seeing the plane for the first time since the crash. That night, there will be a fundraiser for the museum exhibit, with Sullenberger as the featured speaker.
The progress of the trip to Charlotte can be tracked via Twitter, Facebook or the website of the company handling the transport.