Black box data has confirmed that a collision with a flock of birds caused the US Airways Airbus A320 to lose power, forcing the pilot to crash land into the Hudson River shortly after take-off.
The pilot also told crash investigators that he ditched the plane in the Hudson River to avoid a potentially “catastrophic” crash in Manhattan.Flight data recorders show the engines of the US Airways Airbus A320 cut out simultaneously, National Transport Safety Board investigators said.
The plane had only managed to reach an altitude of 975m. All 155 passengers and crew survived the landing on the Hudson. They were rescued from the sinking aircraft by boats. One passenger broke both legs, but none of those aboard are reported to have sustained serious injuries.
The pilot, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, said that due to the loss of power after the bird strike, he would not be able to make it back to LaGuardia airport, as he could not risk taking the jet over densely populated New Jersey.
“We can’t do it,” Sullenberger told air traffic controllers. “We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”
Kitty Higgins of the National Transportation Safety Board said: “About 90 seconds after take-off, the captain remarks about birds.”
“The consequences would have been catastrophic if we didn’t make it,” the pilot said, according to Kitty Higgins. “The only alternative is the Hudson.”
“One second later the cockpit voice recorder recorded the sound of thumps and rapid decrease of engine sounds. The captain acknowledges that both engines have lost power and he takes control of the aircraft.”
Capt Sullenberger took the decision to ditch the plane in the river dividing Manhattan from New Jersey.
After guiding the powerless jet over the George Washington bridge, Sullenberger picked a stretch of water near Manhattan’s commuter ferry terminals to land. Rescuers were able to arrive within minutes.