NTSB: Flight 1549's Engines Both Cut Out

By: CBS/AP
By: CBS/AP

(CBS/AP) Federal investigators say the flight data recorder of the US Airways jet that made a remarkable emergency landing in the Hudson River shows the aircraft reached a maximum altitude of 3,200 feet and lost power simultaneously in both engines.

Kitty Higgins of the National Transportation Safety Board also saod that ice floes in the river are slowing the search for the Airbus A320's missing engine. It's believed to have separated from the crippled aircraft as the plane ditched in the river Thursday afternoon.

The damaged plane was hoisted from the river onto a barge late Saturday. Investigators were hoping to move the barge and plane to a facility in New Jersey by the end of Sunday.

Investigators have interviewed the pilots and the flight attendants from US Airways flight 1549, and have looked at radar images, and sources tell Orr, "everything so far is consistent with the pilots' reports" of a bird strike.

Workers swarmed around the barge and its battered cargo - moored next to a seawall just a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center site - on Sunday morning as federal aviation investigators met.

The US Airways plane was slowly lifted from the frigid water at the southern tip of Manhattan late Saturday, exposing its shredded underbelly that dropped pieces of metal as a crane maneuvered it in the darkness.

Investigators have taken a preliminary look at the still-attached right engine, but so far have not attempted to recover the metallurgical or DNA evidence needed to confirm the bird strike theory, reports Orr. An extensive tear-down of the engine is planned. In addition the search goes on for the missing left engine which officials believe detached when the plane hit the water.

NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said investigators hoped to move the barge and plane on Sunday. Before that could be done, he said, fuel had to be drained from the tank in the plane's right wing.

Officials refused to say where in New Jersey the plane would be taken when it is towed away, saying investigators wanted to do their work undisturbed. Any decision on whether to release the waterlogged luggage to passengers would come from the airline, they said.

Although the area was barricaded, the spectacle attracted dozens of Sunday morning strollers and tourists who snapped pictures of the wreckage in gently falling snow.

US Airways Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, speaking to National Transportation Safety Board investigators Saturday for the first time, said he made a split-second decision to put the airliner down in the river rather than risk a "catastrophic" crash in a populated area of New York City or New Jersey after a collision with birds shut down both engines.

Police and Coast Guard boats patrolled the water Sunday morning around the barge holding the plane, its damaged right jet engine clearly 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 an object directly below the crash site, upstream between mid-Manhattan and New Jersey, the NTSB said. Investigators initially thought both engines had been shorn off, but divers realized Saturday one was still attached and they had missed it in the murky river water.

The NTSB said radar data confirmed that the aircraft crossed the path of a group of "primary targets," almost certainly birds, as Flight 1549 climbed over the Bronx after taking off from LaGuardia Airport. Those targets had not been on the radar screen of the air traffic 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.

We can't do it. We're gonna be in the Hudson.

Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger to air traffic controllers "His instinct was to duck," Higgins said, recounting their interview. Then there was a thump, the smell of burning birds, and silence as both aircraft engines cut out.

After the impact, Sullenberger told investigators he immediately took over flying from his co-pilot and decided it would be too dangerous to attempt a landing at the smaller Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

"We can't do it," he told air traffic controllers. "We're gonna be in the Hudson."

"Brace! Brace! Head down!" the flight attendants shouted to the passengers.

Security cameras on a Manhattan pier captured the Airbus A320 as it descended in a controlled glide, then threw up spray as it slid across the river on its belly.

Two flight attendants likened it to a hard landing - nothing more. 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 it more seaworthy.

Hoisting the water-filled craft, estimated to weigh 1 million pounds, took a few hours Saturday but was preceded by hours of preparation. Divers went into the water to thread five large slings around the plane and through holes they drilled in the wings.

The conditions were treacherous, with the temperature dipping to 6 degrees and giant chunks of ice forming around the plane by midday. Divers were sprayed with hot water during breaks on shore.

After a day struggling with the icy water and the immense weight of the craft, the mood on the shoreline in lower Manhattan turned festive with the successful operation. Following the long work to secure the plane, people shook hands and investigators took snapshots, 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. And in places, the skin of the aircraft was simply gone.

© MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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