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Landing on Hudson River

Real time synced video re landing on Hudson

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Smithsonian 3 minute video Sully Sullenberg Hudson River Landing

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60 minute interview Sully Sullenberg; sound off so maybe use as an audio

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NY Jet Crash called "Miracle on the Hudson"

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/15/2009

With both engines out, a cool-headed pilot maneuvered his crowded jetliner over New York City and ditched it in the frigid Hudson River on Thursday, and all 155 on board were pulled to safety as the plane slowly sank. It was, the governor said, "a miracle on the Hudson." One victim suffered two broken legs, a paramedic said, but there were no other reports of serious injuries.

The plane, a US Airways Airbus A320 bound for Charlotte, N.C., struck a flock of birds during takeoff minutes earlier at LaGuardia Airport and was submerged up to its windows in the river by the time rescuers arrived in Coast Guard vessels and ferries. Some passengers waded in water up to their knees, standing on the wing of the plane and waiting for help.

"He was phenomenal," passenger Joe Hart said. "He landed it — I tell you what — the impact wasn't a whole lot more than a rear-end (collision). It threw you into the seat ahead of you.

"Both engines cut out and he actually floated it into the river," he added.

In a city still wounded from the aerial attack on the World Trade Center, authorities were quick to assure the public that terrorism wasn't involved.

Police divers had to rescue some of the passengers from underwater, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Among those on board was one infant who appeared to be fine, the mayor said.

Helen Rodriguez, a paramedic who was among the first to arrive at the scene, said she saw one woman with two broken legs. Fire officials said others were evaluated for hypothermia, bruises and other minor injuries.

"We had a miracle on 34th Street. I believe now we have had a miracle on the Hudson," Gov. David Paterson said.

The crash took place on a 20-degree day, one of the coldest of the season in New York. The water temperature was 36 degrees, Coast Guard Lt. Commander Moore said. He estimates that hypothermia can hit within five to eight minutes at that temperature.

'Brace for impact' 
"The captain said, 'Brace for impact because we're going down,'" passenger Jeff Kolodjay said. He said passengers put their heads in their laps and started praying. He said the plane hit the water pretty hard, but he was fine.

The pilot was identified as Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger of Danville, Calif.

"It was intense. It was intense. You've got to give it to the pilot. He made a hell of a landing," Kolodjay said.

"He is the consummate pilot," his wife, Lorrie Sullenberger, told the New York Post. Sullenberger is an U.S. Air Force Academy grad who flew F-4 fighter planes while in the Air Force, she said. "He is about performing that airplane to the exact precision to which it is made."

Image: Chesley "Sully" Sullenburger
Flight 1549 pilot "Sully" Sullenberger.

Sullenberger is an airline safety expert who has consulted with NASA and others, according to his resume posted on the Internet. He has 40 years of experience, 29 with US Airways, and hold masters' degrees in public administration and industrial psychology.

"It was intense. It was intense. You've got to give it to the pilot. He made a hell of a landing," Kolodjay said.

Another passenger, Fred Berretta, who was on his way home to Charlotte from a business trip, told CNN doors were opened on both sides of the plane "as soon as we hit the water."

Witnesses said the plane's pilot appeared to guide the plane down. Bob Read, a television producer who saw the crash from his office window, said it appeared to be a "controlled descent."

Paramedics treated at least 78 patients, fire officials said. Coast Guard boats rescued 35 people who were immersed in the frigid water and ferried them to shore. Some of the rescued were shivering and wrapped in white blankets, their feet and legs soaked.

One commuter ferry, the Thomas Jefferson of the company NY Waterway, arrived within minutes of the crash, and some of its own riders grabbed life vests and lines of rope and tossed them to plane passengers in the water.

Panicked people 
"They were cheering when we pulled up," ferry captain Vincent Lombardi. "We had to pull an elderly woman out of a raft in a sling. She was crying. ... People were panicking. They said, 'hurry up, hurry up.'"

Two police scuba divers said they pulled another woman from a lifeboat "frightened out of her mind" and lethargic from hypothermia. Another woman fell off a rescue raft, and the divers said they swam over and put her on a Coast Guard boat.

US Airways Flight 1549 took off at 3:26 p.m. It was less than a minute later when the pilot reported a "double bird strike" and said he needed to return to LaGuardia, said Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. He said the controller told the pilot to divert to an airport in nearby Teterboro, N.J.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker confirmed that 150 passengers, three flight attendants and two pilots were on board the jetliner.Bank of America and Wells Fargo said they had employees on the plane. Charlotte is a major banking center.

The plane remained afloat but sinking slowly as it drifted downriver. Gradually, the fuselage went under until about half of the tail fin and rudder was above water. Bloomberg said the aircraft finally wound up near Battery Park, at the lower tip of Manhattan and about four miles from where the pilot ditched it. 

"They literally just choke out the engine and it quits," said Joe Mazzone, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot. He said air traffic control towers routinely alert pilots if there are birds in the area.

“The plane flew through a flock of birds and both engines were damaged. That’s all we know right now,” said Dave Steyer, a technician with the wildlife research office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which helps the FAA study what it calls bird strikes.