Pilot hailed for ‘Hudson miracle’

Chesley B 'Sully' Sullenberger III  The pilot of an airliner that ditched in New York’s Hudson River has been hailed a hero after all 155 passengers and crew were rescued.

The US Airways Airbus A320 made the crash-landing minutes out of LaGuardia airport, both its engines apparently disabled by a flock of birds.

Passengers were rescued from the wings or helped from the icy water by divers.

Captain Chesley Sullenberger was praised by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his “masterful” landing.

The state governor spoke of a “miracle on the Hudson”.

The BBC’s Greg Wood reports from New York that it was a true delivery from disaster, a commercial airliner forced to ditch in the river just next to the skyscrapers of mid-town Manhattan but with no fatalities.

One person suffered two broken legs and paramedics treated 78 patients, most for minor injuries but, through a combination of luck, the skill of the pilot and a rapid emergency response, 155 people have had a very narrow escape, our correspondent says.

Air accident investigators are in New York to probe the cause of the incident.

‘Everyone counted out’

Flight 1549 departed LaGuardia en route to Charlotte, North Carolina, at 1503 local time (2003 GMT), after a delay of 18 minutes, US Airlines said.

The pilot reported a “double bird strike” less than a minute after take-off and asked to return to the ground, before ditching in the Hudson, an air controllers union spokesman said.

Plane CrashFerryboats arrived within minutes of the crash to begin the rescue as passengers emerged in life jackets.

The temperature was freezing and the current in the Hudson was running rapidly.

The plane moved rapidly down river, threatening to submerge at one point, until guided to a halt by tug boats against a pier.

“It would appear that the pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river, and then making sure that everybody got out,” Mr Bloomberg said on Thursday evening.

“I had a long conversation with the pilot. He walked the plane twice after everybody else was off and tried to verify that there was nobody else onboard. And assures us there were not.”

The mayor also commended emergency services, saying: “They train for these kinds of emergencies, and you saw it in action.”

New York Governor David Paterson said: “I think that in simplicity, this is really a potential tragedy that may have become one of the most spectacular days in the history of New York City’s agencies.”

Bracing for impact

Stephanie Nachman, who works in a high-rise building in Times Square, said she had seen the plane crash.