By KAREN MATTHEWS
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — A jetliner that crash-landed in the Hudson River had lost power simultaneously in both engines after reaching an altitude of only 3,200 feet, the plane’s black box recorders revealed Sunday.
The details that emerged confirmed the harrowing circumstances under which the pilot of the US Airways flight carrying 155 people maneuvered the plane over New York City and safely into the water after striking a flock of birds Thursday afternoon.
“The captain makes radio call to ATC (air traffic control) calling mayday and reports that they hit birds, lost both engines and were returning to LaGuardia” airport, said Kitty Higgins, a National Transportation Safety Board member, releasing cockpit transmissions captured on flight data and voice recorders.
The wreckage of the Airbus A320 was moved by barge Sunday night to a New Jersey marina, where investigators planned to inspect the extent of the damage more closely.
Investigators already have seen significant damage to the tail and to compartments at the bottom of the plane that opened on impact, Higgins said.
Under a heavy snowfall, tugboats pulled the barge from a seawall a few blocks from the World Trade Center site on a 90-minute trip to the Weeks Marina in Jersey City.
The barge carrying the aircraft and another carrying a large crane arrived at a loading dock on the marina’s outskirts, not far from a site where BMW automobiles are unloaded and stored. Several fire trucks and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police cars were at the site.
The search for the plane’s missing left engine is suspended until Tuesday because ice floes in the river make it too dangerous to put divers or special sonar equipment in the water, Higgins said.
She heaped praise on the flight crew, led by US Airways Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, who spoke to NTSB investigators Saturday.
“Miracles happen because a lot of everyday things happen for years and years and years,” she said. “These people knew what they were supposed to do and they did it and as a result, nobody lost their life.”
Sullenberger had been scheduled to give his first public interview on Monday morning to NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer, but the appearance was canceled Sunday at the request of the U.S. Airline Pilots Association.
Stephen Bradford, president of the association, said he asked Sullenberger not to engage in any media activities because the pilots association has “interested party” status with the NTSB, which allows it to participate in the investigation.
Sullenberger released a statement deferring to the advice. “The Sullenbergers continue to thank their many well-wishers for the incredible outpouring of support,” the statement said.
The mayor of his hometown, Danville, Calif., said the pilot and his family were attending President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Mayor Newell Arnerich said Lorraine Sullenberger told city officials that the family would leave for the East Coast on Sunday. She and the couple’s daughters haven’t seen Sullenberger since he’s been hailed as a hero for saving the lives of all 155 on board.
The area where the barge was moored was closed to the public Sunday, but it attracted hundreds of residents and tourists, who snapped pictures of the plane wreckage.
Kelsey Higginbotham, a 20-year-old student at East Tennessee State University, peered at the crippled aircraft Sunday from behind police barricades.
She and a friend had been to Times Square, Central Park and the site of the World Trade Center, where nearly 2,800 people were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. She said she was struck by the contrast between one disaster in which so many people died and another in which everyone survived.
“It’s a miracle,” she said. “I guess New Yorkers can’t take any more tragedy.”
Associated Press writers Victor Epstein contributed to this report from Jersey City, N.J., and Jason Dearen contributed from San Francisco.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.