guardian.co.uk, Friday 16 January 2009 02.14 GMT
Pilot of US Airways plane avoids disaster and saves lives of 155 people after engine catches fire due to suspected bird strike
The pilot of a US Airways jet managed to avoid disaster and save the lives of all 155 people on board his stricken plane when he ditched into the icy waters of the Hudson river moments after taking off from New York's LaGuardia airport.
The extraordinary escape was immediately dubbed the miracle on the Hudson, and hailed as a testimony to the ability of New York to cope with disaster in the wake of 9/11. Flight 1549 was carrying 148 passengers, including a baby, five crew and two pilots, and all of them escaped.
The captain, named last night as Chesley Sullenberger, has 29 years' experience with commercial airlines and is a former US airforce fighter pilot.
With both his twin engines in trouble, one apparently on fire, and with the nearest airport out of range, he calmly brought the plane to land on the river on the west side of Manhattan.
Sullenberger then helped passengers escape to rescue boats, and twice walked the length of the passenger cabin inside the sinking jet to check that everyone had got out safely, before escaping himself."We have had a Miracle on 34th Street. Now we have a miracle on the Hudson," the governor of New York, David Patterson said.
The Airbus 320 took off from LaGuardia bound for Charlotte in North Carolina at 3.26pm. A mere 30 to 45 seconds after take-off there was a bang and the aircraft shook, believed to have been caused by it striking a flock of geese.
The pilot reported to air traffic control that he was experiencing engine problems and requested to return to ground. The nearest identified airport was in New Jersey, but when it became clear he could not make it, the pilot prepared for a crash landing on the Hudson. "Brace yourself for impact," he told the passengers.
Seconds later the plane struck the Hudson, on a line with 48th Street in midtown Manhattan, turning a stretch of waterway normally populated by tourists enjoying a waterside view of the skyscrapers into an astonishing fight for survival.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing a splash and the plane coming to an immediate stop; it looked so controlled that some witnesses mistook it for the landing of a seaplane. "I just thought, 'Why is it so low?' And splash, it hit the water," said one witness, Barbara Sambriski.
Read the rest of the story here