Canada geese caused plane to ditch in Hudson

Canada geese were the cause of the near-disaster that struck Flight 1459 seconds after it took off from New York's La Guardia to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday afternoon, interviews conducted with the pilots and cabin crew this weekend have all but confirmed.

In dramatic evidence given to investigators, the pilot and co-pilot of the US Airways jet that ditched in the Hudson River both reported seeing a formation of Canada geese as their plane was reaching an altitude of about 3,000 feet. Before they knew it, the windscreen turned dark brown and several loud thuds were heard followed by complete silence as the engines went dead. There was also a smell of burning goose.

Both black boxes from the Airbus 320 were dispatched to Washington DC for detailed analysis by federal crash investigators yesterday after engineers safely hoisted the aircraft onto a barge moored on the southern tip of Manhattan.

Scores of onlookers were crowding the river boardwalk near where the plane sat yesterday morning in a light snow fall. An NTSB spokesman indicated, however, that the plane, which showed a partially shredded underbelly as it came out of the water, would later be towed to an undisclosed location.

The hoisting of the Airbus 320, weighing about one million pounds, began only after divers had spent hours attaching several slings to its belly and wings in icy waters. As the plane rose, it revealed a severely damaged underbelly with large gashes and areas where the fuselage skin was peeling away. It seemed to indicate how close the plane had come to breaking up on its landing.

Also visible was the right engine, its cowling seriously mangled. The port side engine was confirmed missing, however. Sonar scanning of the Hudson River has revealed an object beneath the site of the plane's splash-down and investigators are hopeful it is the engine which they are planning to recover.

Investigators meanwhile continued their interviews over the weekend with Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who has been hailed for a smooth water-landing that saved the lives of all 155 people on board, his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, and three flight attendants. Parts of what they had to say were relayed to reporters by a board member of the NTSB Kitty Higgins.

Seemingly it was Mr Skiles who first saw the flock of geese and noted how pretty it looked. “He commented on the formation, and he said the next thing he knew the windscreen was filled,” Mrs Higgins reported. Mr Skiles, who had taken care of take-off, immediately handed the controls to the more experienced Captain Sullenberger, saying “your aircraft”.

As Mr Skiles began complicated preparations for a possible crash-landing, Captain Sullenberger told air traffic control that the plane had lost all power and he was planning to turn around. What he said is caught on a recording also made public at the weekend.

“Aaah, this is Cactus 1549,” the captain said. “We lost thrust in both engines. We are turning back toward LaGuardia.” He then considered a possible landing at the Tereboro executive airport in New Jersey before ruling out trying to put the plane down on land for fear of the “catastrophic consequences” of it going badly in a built-up area. He told controllers, “We can't do it. We're gonna be in the Hudson.”

When it came, the landing on the water went as smoothly as anyone could dare to expect - so much so, in fact, that none of the flight attendants, who seconds earlier had been shouting at passengers to brace and keep their heads down, even realised that the plane had come down on water. It only became apparently when the first of the forward doors was opened and a raft automatically inflated.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Development Director - Interior Design

£80000 - £100000 per annum + competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Head of Affiliate Sales for Emerging Markets

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you looking for your next role ...

Brand Engagement Manager - TV

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is your chance to join a gl...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits