NEW YORK — Jeff Kolodjay of Norwalk, Conn., put his head in his lap and started praying when he heard the captain of a US Airways say, "Brace for impact because we’re going down.” The pilot ditched his disabled jetliner into the frigid Hudson River on Thursday afternoon after a collision with a flock of birds apparently knocked out both engines. The plane was submerged in the icy waters up to the windows when rescuers in police and Coast Guard vessels and ferry boats arrived. All 155 people on board were pulled. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an experienced pilot, said it appeared the pilot did "a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure everybody got out.” And Gov. David Patterson pronounced it "a miracle on the Hudson.” Police divers rescued a few people from the water, Bloomberg said. Other passengers were able to walk out onto the wings, then onto rescue boats. "There were eyewitness reports the plane may have flown into a flock of birds,” said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown. "Right now we don’t have any indication this was anything other than an accident.”
Birds not rareJoe Mazzone, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot, said it is not unusual for birds to strike planes. In fact, he said, when planes get ready to take off, if there are birds in the area, the tower will alert the crew. In the rare cases in which birds get sucked into an engine, "they literally just choke out the engine,” Mazzone said. Twenty-seven years ago this week, an Air Florida plane bound for Tampa crashed into the Potomac River after hitting a bridge just after takeoff from Washington National Airport. The crash on Jan. 13, 1982, killed 78 people — including four people in their cars on the bridge.
COLD WATERSUS Airways flight 1549 went down minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport for Charlotte, N.C., splashing into the river near 48th Street in midtown Manhattan. The plane was sinking in the near-freezing water on one of the coldest days of the year, with the mercury around 20 degrees.