NTSB investigator: US Airways probe to last a year

NEW YORK (AP) -- The probe into the crash-landing of a US Airways jetliner will take a year, and the lessons learned from the spectacular accident will last much longer, a senior investigator said Monday. "I think this one is going to be studied for decades," said Robert Benzon, chief investigator on the case for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Benzon said the fact that all 155 people aboard the plane survived removes the guilt and finger-pointing that sometimes accompany aviation accidents. He said lessons learned from the successful ditching into the Hudson River could improve air safety.

"In one like this, I think there's potential for a lot of good to come out of it, long-term good," he said.

The Airbus A320 that splashed down in the river Thursday was at a New Jersey salvage yard Monday, where it was being guarded by company workers, federal investigators and New York City police.

"I was surprised at how intact the plane was," said James Marchioni, a manager at Weeks Marine in Jersey City, N.J. "There were some bottom panels that were damaged. Other than that, it looked pretty good."

Marchioni said the NTSB estimated it would take "a week or two" to disassemble the plane so the parts can be shipped to an undisclosed location for closer examination.

The search for the plane's missing left engine was suspended until Tuesday because ice floes in the river made it too dangerous to put divers or special sonar equipment in the water.

Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger safely landed the plane in the frigid river after colliding with a flock of birds. The collision shut down both engines less than two minutes after takeoff.

President-elect Barack Obama said Monday he had spoken with the California pilot, who told him, "Me and my crew, we were just doing our job.'

"And it made me think, if everybody did their job - whatever that job was - as well as that pilot did his job, we'd be in pretty good shape," Obama said. Sullenberger, his crew and family were invited by Obama to attend Tuesday's inauguration.

The five-member crew including three flight attendants has been besieged for media interviews. The crew and the airline released separate statements Monday pleading for privacy.

The crew said they "wish to offer their sincere thanks and appreciation for the overwhelming support, praise and well wishes they have received from the public around the world since the events of last Thursday."

They said they are willing to do media interviews "when the time is right."

The airline said it was "extremely proud of the professional crew of Flight 1549," but said that it and union leaders would "determine when media interviews are appropriate."

The crew did speak with the NTSB, and Benzon said investigators would spend much time analyzing the crew's choices.

"The way the landing itself occurred, the thought process that went through the mind of the pilots and the flight attendants. It's interesting stuff for us," Benzon said. "It's going to take a while to go through it, but this one's going to go down as a classic."

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Associated Press writers Ben Feller and Joan Lowy in Washington and Wayne Parry in New Jersey contributed to this report.

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