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‘Miracle on the Hudson’ veteran planning Long Beach brewery

Patrick Harten, the air traffic controller who helped land the plane in what became known as the "Miracle on the Hudson," is starting a new brewery in Long Beach. On Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, he told Newsday what it was like in the control tower that day and what he thought of the new movie "Sully." (Credit: Newsday Staff)

From “Miracle on the Hudson” to malt and hops.

Air traffic controller Patrick Harten, who helped guide Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger as he safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009, is now focusing on a retirement developing a brewery in Long Beach.

Harten, 42, who lives in Long Beach, has used his spare time to found the Long Beach Brewing Co. with his partners Dan Scandiffio, 45, and company president Brett Blau, 50.

They raised $29,000 in January from 220 donors in a Kickstarter campaign and plan to start brewing under a cooperative agreement with Lithology Brewing to use their brewing system in Farmingdale. They plan to distribute their beer in Long Beach and elsewhere around Long Island before opening a taproom in Long Beach.

“Brewing beer is a lot less stressful than being an air traffic controller,” Harten said last week on the boardwalk in Long Beach. “This is my retirement plan. It started as a hobby that we became passionate about and translated into making a business. If you’re doing what you love to do, then you’re not really working.”

Harten continues to work as an air traffic controller, managing the 1,100 daily LaGuardia flights out of the New York Tracon in Westbury that handles all flights on Long Island and into New York City and Newark. He plans to retire in seven years.

His most famous experience on the job — the “Miracle on the Hudson” — still resonates with him. He assisted as a consultant last year on the Clint Eastwood-directed film, “Sully,” about Sullenberger’s emergency landing on the river. He invited actor Patch Darragh, who portrays him in the film, to watch him work at the control center in Westbury.

“They showed how intense it was during the emergency and how much focus we had in coming up with a solution to the problem we were presented,” Harten said of the movie. “He captured the humanity of being a controller.”

All three partners are Long Beach residents and plan to market their beer based on the unique city. They started as home brewers, making their own beer, until they decided this year to turn their garage-made brew into a professional business.

Products include Shipwreck Black Lager, Boardwalk Cream Ale, West Penn Wheat, Rip Tide RYEPA and Squash-Buckler — a Belgian-style beer made with butternut squash.

The company has its federal liquor license and is waiting for a New York farm brewery license. It will use only New York-grown ingredients. They join 37 other craft breweries on Long Island. The partners said about 60 percent of their donations came from Long Beach residents excited about the brewery. Donors were rewarded with Long Beach T-shirts, glasses and growlers.

“Long Beach definitely has that community atmosphere and a passion people have for their town,” Scandiffio said.

Harten said home brewing became his hobby while he was working as a controller and became a welcome distraction from the intense pressures that come with guiding planes.

The afternoon that Sully took off from LaGuardia for Charlotte, North Carolina, with 155 passengers and crew was a slow day for flights, Harten said. After Sully took off from Runway 4, the plane reached 15,000 feet and struck a flock of Canada geese that stalled both engines.

Sully came through the radio at the same time Harten had tried to steer the plane west on course for Charlotte, muting Sully’s calls for “mayday!” When he came back on the radio, Sully said he lost both engines and was heading back to LaGuardia.

Harten halted all departures to stop air traffic and cleared runways at LaGuardia and Teterboro airports, but Sully came through with a one-word answer: “Unable.”

“He said he wasn’t going to make it and was going to wind up in the Hudson,” Harten said. “At first I had a hard time believing what I heard. In my mind, trying to land a commercial aircraft in water was going to be disastrous. I didn’t think there were going to be any survivors at all.”

Harten didn’t know the outcome for 45 minutes.

“I thought I was part of one of the worst aviation instances in modern history,” Harten said. “Thank God it turned the other way, and was one of the best stories in aviation history.”

Harten was unable to return to work for about 40 days as he was haunted by the crash and wondered if he could have handled it differently.

“I didn’t sleep for two weeks,” Harten said. “It was a constant loop of that 208 seconds that repeatedly plays in your mind.”

He said he returned to work after testifying before Congress, where he happened to run into Sully.

“He shook my hand and said, ‘You did a great job that day,’” Harten said. “It didn’t mean anything until I heard it from Sully himself. He was the one I was trying to help that day.”


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