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National Safety Board looks for birds in plane crash

With Jersey City in the background, the crippled Airbus A320 from US Airways Flight 1549 rests on a barge on the Hudson River in New York Sunday, after being lifted from the water late Saturday. The aircraft will be moved to an undisclosed location for inspection by national safety investigators.

Associated Press

With Jersey City in the background, the crippled Airbus A320 from US Airways Flight 1549 rests on a barge on the Hudson River in New York Sunday, after being lifted from the water late Saturday. The aircraft will be moved to an undisclosed location for inspection by national safety investigators.

NEW YORK — A jetliner that crash-landed in the Hudson River had lost power simultaneously in both engines after reaching an altitude of only 3,200 feet, the plane's black box recorders revealed Sunday.

The details that emerged confirmed the harrowing circumstances under which the pilot of the US Airways flight carrying 155 people maneuvered the plane over New York City and safely into the water after striking a flock of birds Thursday afternoon.

"The captain makes radio call to ATC (air traffic control) calling mayday and reports that they hit birds, lost both engines and were returning to LaGuardia" airport, said Kitty Higgins, a National Transportation Safety Board member, releasing cockpit transmissions captured on flight data and voice recorders.

The wreckage of the Airbus A320 was being moved by barge Sunday night to New Jersey, where investigators planned to inspect the extent of the damage more closely.

Under a heavy snowfall, tugboats began pulling the barge, which had been moored to a seawall a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.

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

She heaped praised on the flight crew, led by US Airways Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who spoke to NTSB investigators Saturday.

"Miracles happen because a lot of everyday things happen for years and years and years," she said. "These people knew what they were supposed to do and they did it and as a result, nobody lost their life."

Sullenberger had been scheduled to give his first public interview this morning to NBC Today show host Matt Lauer, but the appearance was canceled Sunday at the request of the U.S. Airline Pilots Association.

Stephen Bradford, president of the association, said he asked Sullenberger not to engage in any media activities because the pilots' association has "interested party" status with the NTSB, which allows it to participate in the investigation.

Sullenberger released a statement deferring to the advice.

Although the area where the barge was moored was closed to the public, it attracted hundreds of residents and tourists, who snapped pictures of the wreckage.

Kelsey Higginbotham, 20, a student at East Tennessee State University, peered at the crippled aircraft Sunday from behind police barricades.

She and a friend had been to Times Square, Central Park and the site of the World Trade Center, where nearly 3,000 people were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. She said she was struck by the contrast between one disaster in which so many people died and another in which everyone survived.

"It's a miracle," she said. "I guess New Yorkers can't take any more tragedy."

National Safety Board looks for birds in plane crash 01/18/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 18, 2009 9:46pm]

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