Audio recordings of a stressful two minutes of communication between air traffic control and US Airways Flight 1549 that ditched in New York's Hudson River Jan. 15 were released today by the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Ah, this is, uh, Cactus 1539. Hit birds, we lost thrust in both engines. We're turning back towards LaGuardia [airport]," came the first alert from pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger at 3:27:36, about two and a half minutes after the plane had taken off.
Tune in to "Good Morning America" Monday, Feb. 9, to hear from all the heroes of flight 1549 -- the pilots, the crew and the passengers -- when they reunite for the first time.
"Okay, yea, you need to return to LaGuardia," responded 10-year veteran controller Patrick Harten at the aviation administration's TRACON facility on Long Island, which tracks planes after they take off from all New York area airports.
At 3:27:49 TRACON told controllers at LaGuardia: "Tower, stop your departures. We got an emergency returning."
Within seconds controllers embarked on a series of conversations aimed at guiding the plane to a safe landing, after clearing a runway at LaGuardia.
"Cactus 1529, if we can get it to you, do you want to try to land runway 1-3 ?" Harten asked.
"We're unable. We may end up in the Hudson," flight 1549 communicated in a tense message.
About 40 seconds later, Sullenberger added, "I'm not sure we can make any runway. Oh, what's over to our right? Anything in New Jersey, maybe Teterboro?"
At 3:29 the Teterboro tower confirmed a runway had been cleared. "Cactus 1529 (sic) turn right 2-8-0. You can land runway one at Teterboro."
"We can't do it," replied 1549.
"We're gonna be in the Hudson," flight 1549 said at 3:29:28.
"I'm sorry, say again, Cactus?" the radar facility asked.
It was the last exchange on the ill-fated flight.
Less than 20 seconds later, controllers lost radar contact with the plane.
Today investigators continue to piece together clues to learn more about the "miracle on the Hudson." All 155 people on board survived the emergency water landing in a feat that made the plane's pilots and crew, led by Sullenberger and 1st Officer Jeffrey Skiles, national heroes.
Bird Experts Studying the Evidence
On Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board gave an update on the investigation, reporting that the organic material recovered in both engines contained bird remains.
Bird experts at the Smithsonian are now studying the evidence.
The transportation board also said it has found no problems with either engine up to the point when the bird strikes were reported. The board also said there does not appear to be any correlation between the Jan. 15 ditch and an engine surge that occurred in the right engine two days before the emergency landing.
Interviews with passengers and US Airways personnel continue to help investigators learn more about the emergency. On Jan. 18, crews raised the wreckage from the river and moved the plane to New Jersey for examination. The left engine was later recovered from the Hudson Jan. 23.
In the aftermath of the crash, several survivors have told their stories, recalling that just before the water landing, the pilot told passengers to "brace for impact" and flight attendants shouted out "brace, brace, heads down."
Once in the river, the flight crew quickly opened the forward doors to deploy the evacuation slides, which double as life rafts, and passengers scrambled out the front and over-wing exits.
Nearby ferries and other boats raced to the rescue.
The investigation is expected to last 12 to 18 months. The plane has been moved from a barge in Jersey City, N.J., to a salvage yard in Kearny, N.J., according to the transportation board.