Downed jet lifted from ice-laden Hudson River

The airliner that was piloted to a safeemergency landing in the Hudson River was hoisted from theice-laden current and placed on a barge, and its two "black box"data recorders were sent to investigators

News 12 Staff

Jan 18, 2009, 6:27 PM

Updated 5,636 days ago


The airliner that was piloted to a safeemergency landing in the Hudson River was hoisted from theice-laden current and placed on a barge, and its two "black box"data recorders were sent to investigators in Washington.
Emergency workers swarmed around the barge and its batteredcargo - moored next to a seawall just a couple of blocks from theWorld Trade Center site - on Sunday morning as federal aviationinvestigators met in a downtown hotel.
The aircraft was slowly lifted from the frigid water at thesouthern tip of Manhattan late Saturday, exposing its shreddedunderbelly that dropped pieces of metal as a crane maneuvered it inthe darkness. There was no immediate announcement where the bargewould be taken or when it would be moved.
Although the area was barricaded, the spectacle attracted dozensof Sunday morning strollers and tourists snapping pictures of thewreckage in gently falling snow.
US Airways Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, speaking toNational Transportation Safety Board investigators Saturday for thefirst time, said he made a split-second decision to put theairliner down in the river rather than risk a "catastrophic"crash in a populated area of New York City or New Jersey after acollision with birds shut down both engines.
Police and Coast Guard boats patrolled the water Sunday morningaround the barge holding the plane, its damaged right jet engineclearly visible.
Divers still have to find the plane's left engine in the river,but have an idea where to look. A sonar team has identified anobject directly below the crash site, upstream betweenmid-Manhattan and New Jersey, the NTSB said. Investigatorsinitially thought both engines had been shorn off, but diversrealized Saturday one was still attached and they had missed it inthe murky river water.
The NTSB said radar data confirmed that the aircraft crossed thepath of a group of "primary targets," almost certainly birds, asFlight 1549 climbed over the Bronx after taking off from LaGuardiaAirport. Those targets had not been on the radar screen of the airtraffic controller who approved the departure to Charlotte, N.C.,NTSB board member Kitty Higgins said.
Sullenberger recounted seeing his windshield filled with big,dark-brown birds.
"His instinct was to duck," Higgins said, recounting theirinterview. Then there was a thump, the smell of burning birds, andsilence as both aircraft engines cut out.
After the impact, Sullenberger told investigators he immediatelytook over flying from his co-pilot and decided it would be toodangerous to attempt a landing at the smaller Teterboro Airport inNew Jersey.
"We can't do it," he told air traffic controllers. "We'regonna be in the Hudson."
"Brace! Brace! Head down!" the flight attendants shouted tothe passengers.
Security cameras on a Manhattan pier captured the Airbus A320 asit descended in a controlled glide, then threw up spray as it slidacross the river on its belly.
Two flight attendants likened it to a hard landing - nothingmore. There was one impact, no bounce, then a gradual deceleration.
It all happened so fast, the crew never threw the aircraft's"ditch switch," which seals off vents in the fuselage to make itmore seaworthy.
Hoisting the water-filled craft, estimated to weigh 1 millionpounds, took a few hours Saturday but was preceded by hours ofpreparation. Divers went into the water to thread five large slingsaround the plane and through holes they drilled in the wings.
The conditions were treacherous, with the temperature dipping to6 degrees and giant chunks of ice forming around the plane bymidday. Divers were sprayed with hot water during breaks on shore.
After a day struggling with the icy water and the immense weightof the craft, the mood on the shoreline in lower Manhattan turnedfestive with the successful operation. Following the long work tosecure the plane, people shook hands and investigators tooksnapshots, while police helicopters hovered overhead.
Investigators on the barge circled the dented jetliner,examining the damage. An emergency slide still hung from the plane,and a compartment door was open, with luggage still visible inside.A gash extended from the base of the plane toward the windows. Andin places, the skin of the aircraft was simply gone.

More from News 12