Investor Alert

Jan. 18, 2009, 7:12 a.m. EST

Investigation of US Airways splash landing underway

Airbus A320 is pulled from Hudson River; key recorders have been recovered

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By MarketWatch

TEL AVIV (MarketWatch) - U.S. transportation officials have recovered the cockpit voice recorder and the flight-data recorder from the U.S. Airways jet that on Friday stalled after hitting a flock of birds and was wrestled by its pilot into a safe landing on the Hudson River, media reports said.

On Saturday, investigators were discussing the matter with the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, who is credited with guiding the plane into the near-freezing waters off Manhattan after it lost the use of both engines in what appears to have been a rare case of a double bird strike, according to media reports.

Also on Saturday, salvage crews hoisted the jet out of the river and on to a barge. The New York Times reported on Sunday that the tip of the right wing had been shorn off. The left engine was missing, and the paper quoted a National Transportation Safety Board member as saying that investigators believed they'd located the engine and hoped to retrieve it.

broadband:clip-type=video&file-name=011609hintoncrash&guid={AB360604-3C88-448A-AC5B-D47282E04771} The Airbus A320 had 155 people on board, and all escaped serious injury. At around 3 p.m. Eastern on Friday, about a minute after Flight 1549 had taken off from New York's LaGuardia Airport bound for Charlotte, N.C., it smashed through a flock of birds, investigators said on Saturday.

Both engines, produced by a joint venture of General Electric /zigman2/quotes/208495069/composite GE -1.59% and France's Snecma, /zigman2/quotes/205372374/delayed SAFRF -0.27% lost power. About three minutes after the plane hit the birds, The Wall Street Journal reported, the pilot landed the aircraft on the river.

The five-person crew was able to get everyone out of the plane safely as the aircraft foundered in shallow waters. Ferries in the area responded quickly and carried most of the passengers to shore.

"The pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure that everybody got out," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference.

On Friday, US Airways said the nearly 10-year-old plane had been leased from Wells Fargo Bank Northwest and had most recently been inspected on Dec. 6. The engines had been installed within the past three years.

Freezing waters

The sight of the plane splashing into the river on one of the coldest days this winter triggered a rescue effort in which a flotilla of ferries, water taxis and tourist boats raced to the stricken craft. Passengers who had scrambled out of the flooding plane were plucked to safety as the A320 drifted slowly toward the Statue of Liberty.

Television images taken immediately following the incident showed passengers and crew members standing on the wings in plain sight of thousands of onlookers gathered on the New York and New Jersey shorelines.

Passengers interviewed on TV described a harrowing series of events that unfolded in the moments after takeoff. They said they'd heard a loud bang and seen flames erupting from one of the engines. Soon afterward, an announcement from the cockpit instructed them to prepare for an impact.

"You could smell smoke and fire. ... We knew something was going on," a passenger told cable-news channel CNN. "Then the pilot told us to prepare for impact."

"We were all able to get out. ... It's incredible right now that everyone is still alive," the passenger said.

At its headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., US Airways said it activated its emergency-response teams and confirmed that everyone had gotten off the plane alive.

Another passenger, who said he had been sitting in a seat just behind a wing, said he saw smoke and flame from the engine.

He also complimented the pilots for landing the craft safely: "It was a great landing. I had expected the craft to careen."

Bloomberg said he had spoken with Sullenberger, and that he was told the captain was the last to leave the plane, walking the aisle twice to make sure no one had been left behind.

Airbus is a unit of European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. /zigman2/quotes/200706109/delayed EADSY +0.27% Wells Fargo Bank Northwest is a unit of Wells Fargo & Co., /zigman2/quotes/203790192/composite WFC -0.12% the San Francisco banking company.

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