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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living