Sully: “We're Gonna Be in the Hudson”

FAA releases USAIR 1549 tapes

The pilot who engineered the Miracle on the Hudson sounded calm and steady while coping with the freak accident that knocked out both engines on his plane.

Listen to the moment when the pilot first learned his plane hit a flock of birds until he knew he had to land in the Hudson River.

US Airways Pilot Chesley Sullenberger never lost his composure even when realizing that flying geese had knocked out all his power, he couldn't steer the plane toward either of two nearby airports and had to splash down in the Hudson River in a bid to save 155 people on aboard, according to FAA tapes released Thursday morning.

"Ah this is uh cactus fifteen thirty nine hit birds we lost thrust in both engines, we're turning back toward LaGuardia," he tells air traffic controllers at 3:27 p.m. on January 15th.

However moments later Sullenberger realizes that he can't make the airport.

"We're unable, we may end up in the Hudson."

Controllers try to direct him to a certain runway but his answer is short but emphatic:  "Unable."

"Okay, what do you need to land?" asks one controller.

"I am not sure if we can make any runway," he says.  "Oh, what's over to our right, anything in New Jersey, maybe Teterboro."

At first he says he wants to try for that airport but then decides that's impossible too.

"We can't do it," he says. "We're gonna be in the Hudson."

Read the full transcripts or listen to the audio here.

"I'm sorry, say again," an air traffic controller responded after hearing the pilot's message that he was ditching the Airbus A320.

There was no response from the aircraft.

After contact with the plane is lost, the tension in the tower at LaGuardia is clearly reflected in the voice of a controller. He sighs and then whispers to himself, "Alright" as he returns to his normal duties.

"He lost all thrust" and "they're gone, all frequencies," the controller tells another plane that is preparing to take off.

Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger has told FAA investigators he glided the plane into the river rather than risking a catastrophic crash in a densely populated area. All 155 aboard survived.

The trouble began moments after Flight 1549 took off on Jan. 15.

"Hit birds, we lost thrust in both engines, we're turning back to LaGuardia," the aircraft reported.

Controllers handling the departure told the LaGuardia tower: "Tower, stop your departures, we got an emergency returning." After identifying the flight, they said, "He lost all engines, he lost the thrust in the engines, he is returning immediately."

But less than 20 seconds later, Flight 1549 reported: "We're unable. We may end up in the Hudson." That led to the unsuccessful scramble to divert the plane to Teterboro.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday they've confirmed there were birds in both the airliner's engines. Remains from both engines have also been sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington to have the particular bird species identified.

The safety board also said that an engine surge experienced by aircraft during a flight two days before the accident was due to faulty temperature sensor. The sensor was replaced, and the engine was examined and found to be undamaged before being returned to service.

The flight data recorder revealed no anomalies or malfunctions in either engine until Sullenberger reported striking birds, the board said.

Engine maintenance records also show the engines had been serviced in compliance with the FAA's most recent safety directive, the board said.

Last week, the aircraft was moved from the barge where it had been docked in Jersey City, N.J., to a secure salvage yard in Kearny, N.J, where it will remain throughout the estimated 12 to 18 months the NTSB investigation could take.

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