The NTSB said over the weekend that the first officer of US Airways Flight 1549 clearly saw the formation of birds seconds before they were ingested in the Airbus A320’s engines, causing immediate loss of thrust and an eventual ditching in the Hudson River. The NTSB said Saturday that interviews with Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles revealed that Skiles had seen the birds approaching in perfect formation and made note it. An instant later, Sullenberger said the windshield was filled with big, dark-brown birds. “His instinct was to duck,” the NTSB’s Kitty Higgins told The Associated Press, in summarizing the crew interview. Skiles was flying the leg from LaGuardia to Charlotte on Thursday afternoon, but immediately after the bird strike, Sullenberger assumed control and began the sequence of events that ultimately resulted in a successful ditching in the Hudson with all occupants surviving. As the engines spooled back, the smell of burning birds and fuel filled the cabin air system.
In frigid temperatures on Saturday, a heavy-lift crane removed the A320 from the Hudson and placed it on a barge. “The plane is full of water, as you would expect. It has the approximate weight of an A380, so in its current condition, it’s about a million pounds,” she said in a press conference Saturday. The airplane’s right wing was wedged under a seawall where the airplane had been secured on Thursday evening. The aircraft was lifted a foot at time to allow water to drain, reducing its weight. The lift revealed that the right engine was still attached to the wing and that wing and engine panels were damaged or missing. The safety agency is still searching for the left engine, which was sheared off during the ditching sequence. The NTSB also said that Flight 1549’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been recovered and sent to Washington for analysis.