Plane lands in Hudson River after engines are disabled by bird strike; all safely evacuated
Passengers in an inflatable raft move away from an Airbus 320 US Airways aircraft that has gone down in the Hudson River this afternoon. More photos after jump. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
amNY staff reports
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A heroic pilot skillfully glided his disabled US Airways jet onto the Hudson River Thursday afternoon after a flock of birds disabled both its engines. All passengers and crew were safely evacuated.
Flight 1549 took off at 3:03 p.m. from LaGuardia Airport and was en route to Charlotte, N.C. when it made a remarkably smooth emergency landing on the river minutes later near West 48th Street in Manhattan. The Airbus A320 soon became partially submerged, its nose still visible, and floated down the river as ships and emergency responders converged to rescue the passengers, dozens of whom scrambled onto the wings.
Most passengers suffered minor injuries, including hypothermia from exposure to the 40-degree Hudson River waters. But most passengers never touched the water, officials said.
"It would appear that the pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river, and then making sure everybody got out," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference. Bloomberg talked to the pilot, Chelsey B. "Sully" Sullenberger, who the mayor said walked up and down the plane twice before getting out to ensure that no one was left on board.
There were 150 passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants aboard, according to US Airways CEO Doug Parker.
We heard what sounded like a bomb went off. There was a spray of water. When it settled down, you could actually see a plane. It looked like a commuter plane. About 15 second later, both wings were full of people. Some debris was in the water, said Ben Bridges, 20, who was surveying historic planes at the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum when he witnessed the "fairly smooth" emergency landing.
The sinking plane was quickly surrounded by rescue boats and ferries as the massive rescue effort immediately began. The plane floated south of West 30th Street within about 20 minutes of the landing.
'At first it was chaos'
Passenger Jeff Kolodjay, 31, of Norwalk, Conn., was in seat 22A and spoke of people hitting their heads against the roof when the plane crashed.
The left engine just blew. I was looking right at it, because I was right there.
He added, The pilot said youve got to brace for a hard impact.
He said it hit the water and everybodys heads hit the ceiling.
People were bleeding all over the place. I was scared as s***. At first, it was chaos. Everybody was kind of orderly. But I said relax, relax, women and children first.
After the crash, the wings started filling up and then people started getting onto life rafts. He said he smelled gas and there was a little girl behind him that was scared.
Before they went down, we thought we were going to circle around, but we didnt have time. A couple of ladies got some pretty bad leg injuries.
He thinks there were about five life rafts. Women and children got on first and then the men did. I think everybody made it on.
A lot of the rafts started sinking a little bit; his did but it wasnt as bad as the others.
'Heroic' pilot heralded
The pilot was earning accolades for his handling of the landing.
The pilot did an excellent job of choosing a landing site, happened to be in the river. He did an excellent job of ditching the aircraft. As a result, we have a hundred some odd people that are rescued," Alan Yurman, a former National Transportation Safety Board investigator, told NY1.
Gregory Keshishian, a certified flight instructor and master flight instructor with 30 years of experience, called the landing a "heroic" and "fantastic display of airmanship."
If theres ever been a miracle, this is a miracle," he said.
Keshishian continued, "An airliner like this is a very large, heavy piece of machinery as you can imagine, for him to be able to so quickly after takeoff, navigate to the river and line up with the river and put the plane down apparently perfectly takes a great amount of skill and good judgment.
An unprecedented accident
Yurman said bird strikes involving planes are not unprecedented, but they have never caused as much damage as this afternoon's incident.
"Once the bird strikes take out both engines, you dont have any power anymore. You cant go anywhere," Yurman told NY1.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
A quick response by water
Witness Alex Wilson, 20, who with his friend Bridges was aboard the Intrepid, said the first boat out there was a New York Waterway ferry. He said boats responded pretty quickly. A police helicopter was on the scene about a minute later, Wilson said.
Inflatable slides went out in 15-20 seconds. Immediately, there was people out on the wings, Bridges said.
Roseann Needleman, 59, watched the plane go down from her apartment on West 52nd Street and 10th Avenue. She was stunned by how smooth the landing was.
"Sure enough he skidded, unbelievably smoothly, just skidded right in front of us and just skimmed the water. And within three seconds, the doors popped open, and the rafts exploded out they opened up. And people started to fill the rafts, and then people started to walk on the wings. And they just waited there. They were just floating in the middle of the river.
Families are gathering at an information center set up by the Port Authority at the LaGuardia Airport Crowne Plaza Hotel. Families can call 1-800-679-8215 for information.
Boats surround the sunken plane, with a wing still visible, off 33rd Street in Manhattan. (Photo by Rolando Pujol)
(Photo by Kristy May and Roseann Needleman)