NTSB Holds Three-Day Hearing On Hudson River Ditching

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The NTSB this week is holding a three-day hearing on the January ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in New York's Hudson River. On Tuesday, the board heard Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger recall his decision-making process on that day. After considering all the possible choices, "The only option remaining in the metropolitan area that was long enough, wide enough and smooth enough to land was the Hudson River," he said. "I couldn't afford to be wrong." Passenger Billy Campbell, who was the last passenger off the airplane, told the NTSB that the jolt when the airplane hit the water was violent, and water immediately began to rush into the cabin through a broken window. After everyone got out of the airplane, the life raft that some were in began to sink, because it was still tethered to the airplane, but somebody on a nearby boat tossed them a knife to cut the rope. Campbell said there was not just one lucky break that day but many that allowed everyone to survive. "There were 14 or 15 miracles that had to occur," he said.

Also, on Monday, scientists from the Smithsonian said the Canada geese that destroyed the Airbus A320's engines were migrants from Canada, not local geese. At least two females and one male goose were ingested. The hearing will continue through Thursday, and will cover issues including pilot training regarding ditching, bird detection and mitigation efforts, certification standards regarding ditching for transport-category airplanes, cabin safety emergency procedures, and certification standards for bird ingestion into transport-category airplane engines. The board also released the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, but most of that conversation was heard previously on ATC tapes released in February. The NTSB's comprehensive docket of documents and information about the ditching is available online.