Page last updated at 03:40 GMT, Sunday, 18 January 2009

NY crash drama details revealed


Video of plane crash landing

US air accident investigators have given details of the drama aboard an airliner just before it successfully ditched in a New York river.

"We're going to be in the Hudson," were the last words the captain said to air-traffic control soon after reporting engine damage from a bird strike.

Flight attendants said they had heard a loud thud and then complete silence after the engines failed.

The operation to raise the semi-submerged plane is continuing.

Investigators are trying to retrieve the Airbus's flight recorders.

All 155 passengers and crew on US Airways Flight 1549 escaped relatively unharmed from the dramatic crash-landing on Thursday afternoon.

The captain, Chesley B "Sully" Sullenberger, stayed aboard the sinking plane to ensure everyone left safely and has been hailed as a hero.

Smell of burning birds

Interviewed by National Transportation Safety Board investigators on Saturday, Capt Sullenberger said he had made a split-second decision to put down in the Hudson in order to avoid a "catastrophic" crash in a populated neighbourhood.

The US Airways plane in the Hudson River, 17 January
The stricken plane is currently tethered amid the ice of the Hudson

Faced with engine failure just minutes after take-off from New York's Laguardia airport, he had felt it was "too low, too slow" and near too many buildings to go anywhere but the river, the Associated Press reports.

His co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, who was flying the plane on take-off, had seen the birds approaching in perfect formation and made note of it.

Capt Sullenberger looked up and in an instant his windscreen was filled with big, dark-brown birds.

"His instinct was to duck," said NTSB board member Kitty Higgins, recounting their interview.

"My aircraft!" Capt Sullenberger exclaimed.

Then there was a thump, the smell of burning birds and silence as both aircraft engines cut out.

Flight attendants likened the complete silence in the cabin to "being in a library".

After the bird impact, Capt Sullenberger immediately took over flying from his co-pilot and made his dramatic command decisions, he told investigators.

Earlier on Saturday, officials released footage showing the plane hitting the water and passengers sitting on its wings, awaiting rescue.

Map of incident
1 1526 local time (2026 GMT): Flight 1549 takes off from LaGuardia airport
2 1527 (2027 GMT): Pilot Chesley Sullenberger reports birds hitting engines
3 1528 (2028 GMT): Pilot told to land at Teterboro airfield
4 1531 (2031 GMT): Pilot ditches plane in Hudson River

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