A giant crane and a barge were brought in today to begin hauling a partially submerged jetliner out of the Hudson River, one day after it was apparently knocked out of the sky by birds and spectacularly splashed down alongside Manhattan's skyscrapers.
The US Airways Airbus A320 has been lashed to a Manhattan pier since all 155 passengers were safely evacuated by a flotilla of ferries, tug boats, and emergency craft. A giant crane and a barge began working today to drag it ashore.
While the passengers were stunned, bruised and shivering from their icy ordeal, they were largely unhurt and are hailing the plane's pilot Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III as a hero.
Tales of fear and survival inside the plane began to emerge today.
Irina Levshina told "Good Morning America" that she was sitting in the last row of the plane.
"I feel quite shaken still," Levshina said.
Before the plane took off, the woman sitting next to her blurted out that she was petrified of flying.
But during the terrifying descent, she was the one who calmed people down, Levshina said.
"Girls, its going to be OK, I'm the one that's afraid of flying,'" the unidentified woman told Levshina and another woman in the back row. The women held hands and prayed.
Being in the last row made it even scarier once the plane had settled on the river and water began rushing in.
"I thought I'd be the last one out of the plane. That was really scary," Levshina told "GMA."
"At first it was relatively calm, but when people realized we had to get out, people were prompting others to get off the plane. With yelling. I was one of those. I didn't want to drown there," she said.
Passenger Dave Sanderson said he heard a bang and looked out the window to see a startling sight.
"I saw the flames coming from underneath the wings," Sanderson told "GMA." "Once again, I said this is not a good thing."
He went from the frying pan into the river.
"It was so cold. So, it woke you up pretty quickly. You get out of the shock and start moving forward.
Everyone praised the performance of pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.
"It would appear that the pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river, and then making sure everybody got out," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference late today.
The mayor said Sullenberger "walked the plane twice to verify if anyone was onboard" before exiting himself.
"You've got to give it to the pilot. He made a hell of a landing," said Jeff Kolodjay, 31, a passenger on the plane from Norwalk, Conn.
Sullenberger is believed to have activated the plane's "ditching switch," a device that closes valves and openings on the bottom of the fuselage, preventing the plane from taking on water and allowing it float.
"It is true the plane has a ditching switch, which closes the outflow valve and the avionics ventilation ports - in other words, those openings below what would be a theoretical float line," said Mary Anne Greczyn, a spokeswoman for Airbus.
All passengers and crew aboard were reported safe after New York City firefighters, police and ferries rushed to the aid of the US Airways jet, which floated in the river near the historic aircraft carrier The Intrepid.