Brittany Catanzaro

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Brittany Catanzaro
Born 1989 (age 31–32)
Nationality USA
Occupation sailor
Known for commanded a vessel that rescued 20 people

Brittany Catanzaro is an American sailor.[1] She was the youngest individual appointed captain of a New York Waterways ferry, and the first woman appointed captain.[2] Catanzaro captained the Governor Thomas Kean, one of the vessels that responded to the emergency landing of US Airways flight 1549, on the Hudson River.[3] Catanzaro and her crew are credited with rescuing two dozen survivors.[4]

Following the rescue the United States Coast Guard honored Coast Guard personnel who had distinguished themselves.[5] Catanzaro is a member of the Coast Guard Reserve, and received a Meritorious Public Service Award.

Catanzaro's cool and efficient response to the emergency landing has been offered as an example the value of training for emergencies.[6][7] Catanzaro's crew practiced man overboard drills every two weeks, and Catanzaro said they were all so familiar with the process she did not have to issue any orders, as her subordinates all already knew what to do.[8] Keeping pace with survivors drifting with the Hudson's relatively fast currents is a task that requires skill and practice, and Catanzaro had specifically practiced to master this skill, during their drills, by throwing life-rings into the water, practicing keeping pace with them.

The New York Times profiled Catanzaro on December 4, 2008, when she was New York Waterways youngest ever captain, and its first female ferry captain.[9] Catanzaro described virtually growing up on her family's boat, which was moored near the New York Waterways terminal.[10] She described knowing she wanted to work on water, from an early age. She enlisted in the Coast Guard on September 11, 2007, where she worked as a machinery technician. When asked whether the older captains had given her "guff", she replied that, on the contrary, she didn't have to earn their trust, as they had seen her grow up on the river, and several of them had played a role in her training and qualification.


  1. Thad Allen (2009-02-26). "A Great Day to be Commandant! -- Part Two -- Updated with Photos". iCommandant. Retrieved 2019-06-07. "At just 20 years old, Petty Officer Catanzaro has already attained her 100-ton license and is a New York Ferry Captain. She was serving in this capacity on the afternoon of the FLT 1549 crash and was one of the first vessels on scene, ultimately rescuing 26 people." 
  2. Steven Otfinoski (2019). Captain Sully's River Landing: The Hudson Hero of Flight 1549. Capstone Publishing. p. 78. ISBN 9781543542035. Retrieved 2019-06-07. 
  3. Beth Hughes (Spring 2009). "Friend of the Port – NY Waterway Rescue". Port of New York and New Jersey. Retrieved 2019-06-07. "Captain Manny Liba and his crew on the Moira Smith rescued 14 people. Captain Brittany Catanzaro on the Gov. Thomas Kean and her crew saved 24 people." 
  4. Larry King (2009-01-15). "Larry King: Aired January 15, 2009". Larry King Show.;jsessionid=E367A2E428E66236833C172AA53F097E?pid=25392. Retrieved 2019-06-07. 
  5. Janet Napolitano (2009-02-23). "Honoring Flight #1549". Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2019-06-07. "The rescue also reminds us of the importance of training and exercising before the fact. First responders at all levels must know what to do when it comes time to execute a mission – because seconds count. The successful rescue of Flight #1549 is a case in point." 
  6. Amy L. Fraher (2011). "Thinking Through Crisis: Improving Teamwork and Leadership in High-Risk Fields". Cambridge University Press. p. 141. ISBN 9781139498494. Retrieved 2019-06-07. "The ferry's 19-year-old [sic] Captain Brittany Catanzaro recalled, "You train so much, you don't have to think about it. I didn't have to give any orders to the crew." They simply made sense of what was happening and knew what to do." 
  7. Akanksha Sawant; Nidhi Gupta; Raman Khattar; Ipshita Chakrovarty; Manpreet Kaur; Karan Kapoor (April 2009). "Crisis Management Is Not To Cry, Crisis Management Is To Try". JIMS Management magazine: p. 41. Retrieved 2019-06-07. "Brittany Catanzaro, captain of a commuter ferry was shocked to see a US Airways jet bobbing on the tide but she knew what had to be done as they are trained twice a month for man-overboard situations." 
  8. Jim Dwyer (2009-01-16). "Old Hands on the River Didn’t Have to Be Told What to Do". The New York Times: p. A19. Retrieved 2019-06-07. "'I pulled out of Pier 79, I looked for any kind of southbound traffic, and I saw the plane there,' Captain Catanzaro said. 'It was hard to stay next to it, but you practice that by throwing life rings in the water and trying to stay alongside them.'" 
  9. Tina Kelley (2008-12-05). "New to the Ferry, but at Home on the Water". The New York Times: p. A34. Retrieved 2019-06-07. "Any guff from fellow captains? A lot of the older guys trained me. They’ve known me since I was little, because I’ve been around." 
  10. "Q&A with Brittany Catanzaro". Soundings magazine. 2017-06-16. Retrieved 2019-06-07. "My dad docked our family boat next to where the old NY Waterway terminal used to be. I grew up around the crew. I was offered an opportunity at NY Waterway when I was training with the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve [as a Machinery Technician 3rd Class]. I started as a deckhand and worked my way to captain."