When U.S. Airways Flight 1549, better known as the "Miracle on the Hudson" jet, arrives at its final resting place at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday (June 11), it will be in no small part thanks to a savvy small-business owner from Harrison, N.J., who is leveraging social media to share news of the historic move.
Joseph Supor III, owner of J. Supor & Son Trucking and Rigging Co., has been the caretaker of sorts for the Airbus 320 that made an emergency landing in the Hudson River while being piloted by hero captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. Since the January 2009 crash, during which all aboard miraculously survived, the plane has been residing in Supor's warehouse. Supor & Son, which specializes in this type of aviation disaster recovery, used a crane to hoist the plane from the water and transport it to the facility on a special flatbed truck.
Supor's company, which does all sorts of heavy hauling and rigging, is now moving the 123-foot plane to the museum. The week-long move has required a specially constructed trailer, a crew of escorts and a journey through back roads because the trailer is too wide to go through toll booths or handle other obstacles. The wings, which were removed before the plane was taken to the Harrison warehouse, are being transported separately.
Social media has played an unusual role in the transportation of the plane. It has its own Facebook page, which is updated regularly and contains photos from those who've taken pictures of the plane on its journey. Twitter has also played a role in the social media efforts. The trip has also been documented by the museum, which has been tweeting photos and details along the way.
Supor & Son's role in incorporating these technologies into its website have made the trip especially exciting for those interested in following the plane. In addition, the company added the Google Latitude application to its home page, enabling anyone to track the plane along its journey.
"More than 1,000 people have downloaded the application," said Rich Gorman, Supor's IT manager who spearheaded the effort to incorporate the technology into the company's plan for the move. "There have been times when the GPS wasn't working and I would call and find out where they are and manually enter it."
Gorman said followers have been so committed to tracking the plane's every move, that he's gotten complaints from people when the tracking system hasn't updated quickly enough.
Gorman also headed up the company's 6-month effort to build its company website , which is a lot flashier than one might expect from a trucking and rigging company.
"We wanted to update the website because so many of the trucking and rigging sites look outdated. We wanted to show that we use the latest technology," Gorman told BusinessNewsDaily.
Supor's commitment to changing with the times has positioned the company as a leader in tackling hard-to-handle jobs.
The company helped respond to the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 by delivering special stainless steel tanks from its warehouse in Harrison to be used in the recovery operation at the Pennsylvania site. It also participated in the Sept. 11 recovery efforts.
The company also specializes in air disaster recoveries and has participated in recovering and storing many planes, including those from nearby Teterboro Airport, the aiport at which Sullenberger was hoping to make an emergency landing.
Despite the company's aggressive efforts to stay on top of the latest technology, its days in the spotlight have taken the 130-employee firm in an unlikely direction.
Supor, whose father started the company in 1960 with one truck, might have chosen to remain beneath the radar in the historic move, which he is doing for free, had it not been for the encouragement of the Carolinas Aviation Museum.
It was the museum that encouraged Supor to make the most of the move by allowing the media and the public a peek inside the amazing and complicated transportation process for which the company has been preparing for two years. The museum is planning a giant welcome reception for the plane on Saturday featuring a visit from Captain Sully himself.
Shawn Dorsch, president of the Carolinas Aviation Museum, said Supor's willingness to go above and beyond to get the plane's body moved in once piece, means a piece of history will be saved.
"Joe and his team recognized the historical significance of this artifact," Dorsch told BusinessNewsDaily. "If he hadn't stepped up to the plate and offered to do this, the plane would have had to be cut in half."
Supor, however, likes to remain focused on the heroic efforts of Sullenberger and the rest of the rescue team.
"We assisted only after all the passengers were brought to safety," Supor said in a statement. "I would like to thank all of my employees for working diligently through the chilling evening until the aircraft was removed from the water and raised up to the surface as well as throughout the process of storing and preparing the plane again for its final journey home."
Supor, described by his employees as "unpretentious," "unassuming" and "down to earth," also wants to thank everyone who helped make the very challenging move possible.
"I would like to thank the states' DOT’s [departments of transportation] and engineers, each police department, state trooper, county official and all the town mayors that went above and beyond to help us navigate through our permitted route," Supor said. "If not for the combined effort of all, this move could not have been accomplished. The outpouring of support throughout the country has been overwhelming and I’m reminded again why I’m so proud to be an American."
The plane will be on exhibit at the Carolinas Aviation Museum beginning the end of next week. Visitors will be able to view the plane's fuselage as museum workers reattach the wings and prepare the plane for its long-term stay at its new home.
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