Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Sunday, 18 January 2009

Crane pulls airliner from Hudson


The crashed Airbus airliner is moved from the Hudson River

The Airbus airliner which ditched in a New York river after engine failure on Thursday has been lifted from the icy waters of the Hudson.

TV cameras showed the aircraft's body being gently taken from the water.

Investigators gave details of their first interviews with the captain, who spoke of a thump and smell of burning after birds hit both engines.

All 155 passengers and crew survived the landing in a rare event which made headlines worldwide.

Interviewed by National Transportation Safety Board investigators on Saturday, Capt Chesley B "Sully" 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.

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.

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.

BBC graphic
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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