A US Airways pilot flew his disabled airplane into the ice cold Hudson River this afternoon after a collision with a flock of birds apparently knocked out both plane engines, but rescuers pulled all 155 people on board into boats as the plane sank. There were no reports of any injuries. Flight 1549 went down minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport for Charlotte, N.C., landing into the river near 48th Street in midtown Manhattan."There were eyewitness reports the plane may have flown into a flock of birds," said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown. "Right now we don't have any indication this was anything other than an accident."Passenger Jeff Kolodjay of Norwalk, Conn. told reporters he heard an explosion two or three minutes into the flight, looked out the left side of the Airbus 320 and saw one of the engines on fire. "The captain said, 'Brace for impact because we're going down,'" Kolodjay said. He said passengers put their heads in their laps and started saying prayers. He said the plane hit the water pretty hard, but he was fine. "It was intense. It was intense. You've got to give it to the pilot. He made a hell of a landing," Kolodjay said. The plane was submerged in the frigid waters up to the windows when rescuers in Coast Guard boats and ferries arrived, opened the door and pulled passengers in yellow life vests from the plane, whose fuselage appeared intact. The aircraft was sinking in the near-freezing water on one of the coldest days of the year, with the temperature around 20 degrees.Witnesses said the plane's pilot appeared to guide the plane down. "I see a commercial airliner coming down, looking like it's landing right in the water," said Bob Read, who saw it from his office at the television show "Inside Edition." ''This looked like a controlled descent." Barbara Sambriski, a researcher at The Associated Press, saw the plane go down from the news organization's high-rise office. "I just thought, 'Why is it so low?' And, splash, it hit the water," she said. The pilot reported a "double bird strike" less than a minute after taking off, said Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Union. The controller sent the aircraft back toward LaGuardia, but the pilot saw an airport below him and asked what it was, Church said. It was Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, and the pilot asked to land there, Church said. US Airways said 150 passengers, three flight attendants and two pilots were on board the jetliner. Joe Mazzone, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot, said it is not unusual for birds to strike planes. In fact, he said, when planes get ready to take off, if there are birds in the area, the tower will alert the crew. In the rare cases in which birds get sucked into an engine, "they literally just choke out the engine and it quits," Mazzone said.
This Story Was Compiled From News Reports...