Plane Crash

Published: 8.25.2017
Level 4   |   Time: 5:02
Accent: American
Source: TED Talks

Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. He describes what went through his mind as it happened.


triangle Directions

  1. REVIEW the vocabulary / background.
  2. WATCH the video.
  3. ANSWER the questions.
  4. CHECK your answers. (Show Answers)

triangle Vocabulary

  • lines up the plane with [exp] - arrange above, in parallel lines
  • route [n] - way
  • unemotional [adj] - normal, with no fear or panic
  • brace for impact [exp] - get ready to hit something
  • terror [n] - strong fear (not violence)
  • instant [n] - short period of time (usually about one second)
  • bucket list [n] - list of things to do before you die
  • reach out to [exp] - contact, make a good relationship
  • fences to mend [exp] - relationships to repair
  • postpone [v] - wait until later to do something
  • urgency [n] - a feeling that something must be done fast
  • to clear the bridge [exp] - succeed in flying above
  • regret [n] - a wish that you had done something differently
  • matter [v] - to be important
  • mental clock [n] - clock in your mind
  • blow up [v] - explode
  • was framed [v] - one thought that caused the feeling
  • bawling [n] - crying uncontrolably
  • all the sense in the world [exp] - really made sense - I could understand it perfectly
  • connecting dots [exp] - connecting thoughts
  • miracle [n] - unexplained event, supernatural

[n] - noun,  [v] - verb,  [phv] - phrasal verb,  [adj] - adjective,  [exp] - expression

triangle Background

triangle Questions

  1. What does Ric ask you to imagine?
    an explosion
    a mountain climb
    a loud sound

  2. Where was Ric sitting?
    at the front
    in the middle
    at the back
    next to a flight attendant

  3. What did the flight attendants think initially?
    There was no problem.
    They had probably hit some birds.
    They were going to crash.
    They might crash.

  4. What 3 things did the pilot do?
    He called the airport.
    He started flying the plane above a river.
    He turned off the engines.
    He told the people to get ready for a crash.

  5. Why didn't Ric have to talk to the flight attendants anymore?
    They were too scared.
    They were too busy.
    It was obvious they were going to crash.
    Everyone thought they were going to die.

  6. What is the first thing Ric learned?
    Life changes fast.
    You should have a bucket list.
    He wished he had drunk more wine.
    He wished he had lived more slowly.

  7. Ric says, "I collect bad wines." What does this mean?
    He wanted to buy better wine.
    He wanted to drink more wine.
    He wanted to have better experiences.
    He wanted to stop postponing things.

  8. What was the second thing he learned?
    He had lived a good life.
    He needed to be a better person.
    He regretted doing meaningless things.
    He should have trusted his ego more.

  9. What did he decide to do?
    Be right more often.
    Eliminate negative energy.
    Choose to be right.
    Try to be happy.

  10. What does Ric believe about happiness?
    If you are right, you will be happy.
    Happiness is a choice.
    Happiness depends on your situation.
    Happiness is not that important.

  11. What was the third thing he learned?
    Dying was scary.
    Dying was not scary.
    Dying was sad.
    Dying was not sad.

  12. What is his number one goal in life now?
    to spend more time with his children
    to encourage his wife
    to be a good dad
    to change his relationships

triangle Discussion

  1. He talked about living in the moment, being positive and being a good parent. Which of these is most important to you and why?
  2. What important life decisions or dreams are you putting off (postponing) right now?
  3. Would you prefer to die suddenly or over a few months?
  4. What is the best age to die?
  5. What do you think happens after you die? Heaven? Rebirth? Nothing?
  6. How would you like to be remembered? Choose three adjectives that you want people to use when describing you after your death?
  7. Are you prepared for death? Do you have a will? Will you be an organ donor? Will you be buried or cremated (burned)? Do you know where you want to be buried?

triangle Script


Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 ft. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack, clack, clack.It sounds scary.


Well, I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D. I was the only one who could talk to the flight attendants. So I looked at them right away, and they said, "No problem. We probably hit some birds." The pilot had already turned the plane around, and we weren't that far. You could see Manhattan. Two minutes later,three things happened at the same time.


The pilot lines up the plane with the Hudson River. That's usually not the route.


He turns off the engines. Now, imagine being in a plane with no sound. And then he says three words. The most unemotional three words I've ever heard. He says, "Brace for impact." I didn't have to talk to the flight attendant anymore.


I could see in her eyes, it was terror. Life was over.


Now I want to share with you three things I learned about myself that day. I learned that it all changes in an instant. We have this bucket list, we have these things we want to do in life, and I thought about all the people I wanted to reach out to that I didn't, all the fences I wanted to mend, all the experiences I wanted to have and I never did. As I thought about that later on,I came up with a saying, which is, "I collect bad wines." Because if the wine is ready and the person is there, I'm opening it. I no longer want to postpone anything in life. And that urgency, that purpose, has really changed my life.


The second thing I learned that day -- and this is as we clear the George Washington Bridge, which was by not a lot --


I thought about, wow, I really feel one real regret. I've lived a good life. In my own humanity and mistakes, I've tried to get better at everything I tried. But in my humanity, I also allow my ego to get in. And I regretted the time I wasted on things that did not matter with people that matter. And I thought about my relationship with my wife, with my friends, with people. And after, as I reflected on that, I decided to eliminate negative energy from my life. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better. I've not had a fight with my wife in two years. It feels great. I no longer try to be right; I choose to be happy.


The third thing I learned -- and this is as your mental clock starts going, "15, 14, 13." You can see the water coming. I'm saying, "Please blow up." I don't want this thing to break in 20 pieces like you've seen in those documentaries. And as we're coming down, I had a sense of, wow, dying is not scary. It's almost like we've been preparing for it our whole lives. But it was very sad. I didn't want to go; I love my life. And that sadness really framed in one thought, which is, I only wish for one thing. I only wish I could see my kids grow up. About a month later, I was at a performance by my daughter -- first-grader, not much artistic talent -- YET...


And I'm bawling, I'm crying, like a little kid. And it made all the sense in the world to me. I realized at that point, by connecting those two dots, that the only thing that matters in my life is being a great dad. Above all, above all, the only goal I have in life is to be a good dad.


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. I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane --and please don't -- but imagine, and how would you change?What would you get done that you're waiting to get done because you think you'll be here forever? How would you change your relationships and the negative energy in them? And more than anything, are you being the best parent you can?


Thank you.