According to officials, a U.S. Airways Jetliner with 155 people on board landed into the Hudson River on Thursday after the plane’s engines failed.
After taking off from New York’s LaGuardia airport at 3:26 p.m., the plane headed north over the Bronx, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The main pilot, 57-year-old Chesley B. Sullenberger III, radioed that he’d suffered a double birds strike after losing power in both engines.
Sullenberger then turned his attention to New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, which was just a few miles south from where the strike occurred, according to FAA reports. Flying at 3200 feet, Sullenberger banked the plane left and headed for New Jersey. But he didn’t have enough time. Realizing that he couldn’t make it to New Jersey or LaGuardia, Sullenberger changed his course and aligned the plane over the Hudson River. He then tilted the plane’s nose up slightly and landed the jetliner into the Hudson River’s chilly January waters with Manhattan’s West 48th street on the left and New Jersey’s Weehawken on the right.
A few passengers said that before the plane landed on the Hudson, Sullenberger came on the intercom and said, “brace for impact.”
One of the passengers seated near the back of the plane, Elizabeth McHugh, 64 years old, recalled the the moments leading up to and after the plane collided with the river.
“I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. Believe me, I prayed,” exclaimed McHugh.
She additionally recollected the exact moment the plane made contact with the river.
“As soon as we hit, we all jolted forward and sideways. And then the water started coming in around my feet,” she added.
After the plane struck the surface of the river, it didn’t sink immediately. This gave the flight attendants enough time to push open the plane’s emergency exit doors over its wings. This caused the plane to begin submerging.
Flight attendants and pilots led all passengers out of the plane and onto its wings to prevent injuries and fatalities. People on both sides of the Hudson River witnessed the debacle as water poured into the plane’s passenger compartment.
Susan Obel, who lives in a 20th floor apartment on West 70th Street at Amsterdam Avenue, said that she saw the plane coming down.
“When you see a plane somewhere that it isn’t supposed to be, you get that eery feeling. I didn’t think it was a terrorist attack,” said Obel.
Another eye witness, Fulmer Duckworth, who works at the Bank of America, claims to have seen the plane hit the water.
“It made this huge, gigantic splash. I thought it was a boat crash at first. It didn’t occur to me that it was a plane in the water, said Duckworth.
Captain Sullenberger walked the length of the plane twice to make sure that everyone had been led to the safety of the plane’s wings. He was the last person off the plane. The plane then began to spin in a counterclockwise direction but helicopters arrived and police divers swam to the scene, effectively aiding rescue.
Tourist boats also rushed to the scene after witnessing the crash, saving numerous passengers who were waist-deep in the 35-degree water. Some passengers were taken to Manhattan while others were taken to New Jersey. Ten patients, from their early 30s to a woman who was 85 years old, were taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan and treated for hypothermia. Dozens were also taken to St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Center. One flight attendant sustained a cut on her leg but no further injuries have been reported.
After all passengers and crew members were taken to safety, the plane was towed down the Hudson to Battery Park.
The FAA later revealed that the same aircraft had been involved in two other emergency landings. The first occurred in 2002 and the second in 2003. The former emergency landed resulted from flames shooting out of the plane’s left engine, and the latter involved problems with the landing gear.
New York Governor David A. Patterson commented on the entire event and Captain Sullenbergers’s efforts.
“I believe we now have a miracle on the Hudson,” said Patterson.