Pattaya Daily News

18 January 2009 :: 16:01:53 pm 28315

Hero Airbus Pilot Chelsey Sullenberger

Dramatic new details have emerged of the last moments of the US Airways Airbus that crash-landed in New York?s Hudson River on Friday, with its pilot telling air traffic controllers: "We?re gonna be in the Hudson."
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January 18, 2009 -Captain Chelsey B ?Sully? Sullenberger, who has been hailed as a hero for guiding his crippled airliner to safe landing in the river, saving the lives of all 155 aboard, told investigators he decided to head for the river because trying to return to the airport carried the serious risk of a “catastrophic’ crash in a densely populated area. The plane was “too low, too slow, they were pointed the wrong way and they had to traverse a populated area,” according to officials from the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB).

Attempting to land at an alternative airport nearby was also out as it would mean flying over New Jersey. “It was a populated area, the consequences would have been catastrophic,” Kitty Higgins from the NTSB told reporters yesterday.

Instead, he told controllers, ?We’re gonna be in the Hudson.?

Mr Sullenberger and his co-pilot have described to NTSB investigators the dramatic scenes in the cockpit in the minutes before and after the US Airways flight 1549 flew into a “wall of large birds” just after take-off, losing both its engines.

The cockpit windscreen ?was literally filled with big, dark brown birds,? Mr Sullenberger told investigators.

?He said his instinct was to duck but he didn?t? said Ms Higgins.

The new details came as crews raised the plane from the river onto a barge, exposing its shredded underside. Parts of the plane appeared to have sheared off, its right wing was charred and the right engine looked as if the outside had been peeled off.

Search crews, working in freezing and treacherous conditions, also think they have found the Airbus’ left engine, which was torn off in the crash and sank, the NTSB said.

Preliminary radar reports identified an object directly below the crash site.

The operation will allow the recovery of the black box flight recorders located in the tail.

At the time of impact, the plane?s co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, was at the controls. Seeing the birds to the right of the plane, and believing they would fly below it, he commented on their perfect formation. But as the captain looked up, the windscreen filled with birds and the men heard booming as they hit the flock. The power went and they smelled ‘burning birds,'” said Ms Higgins.

Taking control of the plane, Mr Sullenberger lowered the nose to counteract the loss of airspeed. As he did so, his co-pilot desperately tried, unsuccessfully, to start the engines. “There was very little conversation. These are both experienced pilots. They both knew what they had to do,” said Ms Higgins.

As the men fought to save the plane, there was complete silence in the cabin, according to flight attendants who described it as “like being in a library.”

A smoky haze and the odor of burning metal or electronics filled the plane.

Mr Sullenberger told investigators that in line with standard procedures, he had brought down the plane close to a boat he saw on the river so that help would be near, she said. The Airbus’ entire flight, from take-off to splash landing in the Hudson, lasted about five minutes, she added.

At first the plane?s two cabin crew members did not even realise they had landed on water.

There was “one impact, no bounce, a gradual deceleration and neither one of them realized they were in the water,” Ms Higgins said. “The captain issued a one word demand: ?evacuate?”

Crew interviews also confirmed reports of how Mr Sullenberger refused to leave his sinking plane until he was sure everyone was safe. “He was very concerned with the count of the passengers,” the flight crew told the NTSB, said Ms Higgins.

“He wanted everyone accounted for. He returned to the plane a couple of times to check no one was there. The captain was the last off.”

Authorities also released the first video showing the spectacular crash landing. Security cameras on a Manhattan pier captured the Airbus A320 as it descended in a controlled glide, then threw up a vertical spray as it slid across the river on its belly.

The video also illustrated the swift current that pulled the plane down the river as passengers walked out onto the wings and ferries arrived to rescue them. Authorities also released a frantic emergency call that captured the drama of the flight. A man from the Bronx called emergency services three minutes after the plane took off.

?Oh my God! It was a big plane. I heard a big boom just now. We looked up, and the plane came straight over us, and it was turning. Oh my God!?the caller said.

Mr Sullenberger?s wife Lorrie said ?the enormity of the situation? had only begun to sink in on Friday night as she watched the news. ?It was actually the first time that I cried since the whole incident started,? she told CBS TV.

She suggested the happy ending was good for the country.
?I think everybody needed some good news, frankly,? she said.

From Times Online
www.timesonline.co.uk

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : World News

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