Nelson Hsu, Lindsay Mangum, Alyson Hurt and Andrew Prince/NPR
The pilot of a US Airways passenger plane tried to direct his crippled jet to two airports Jan. 15 before realizing he would have to ditch the craft in the Hudson River, according to transcripts and audio excerpts of air traffic communications released Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration.
"We lost thrust in both engines. We're turning back towards LaGuardia," pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger told air traffic controllers shortly before ditching his jet. Investigators believe the jet struck a flock of birds, damaging the engines.
The transcripts indicate Sullenberger first was aware his jet had lost power at 3:27 p.m. ET. "We may end up in the Hudson," Sullenberger radioed less than a minute later.
"OK, what do you need to land?" a controller asked a few moments later.
"I am not sure if we can make any runway. Oh, what's over to our right? Anything in New Jersey? Maybe Teterboro?" Sullenberger responded.
Air traffic controllers worked to clear an emergency landing at the airport in nearby Teterboro, N.J., but less than a minute later, Sullenberger radioed with his assement: "We can't do it."
"OK, which runway would you like at Teterboro?" came the response.
"We're going to be in the Hudson," Sullenberger radioed back. It was the last communication from the pilot.
The plane, with 150 passengers and five crew members aboard, ditched in the Hudson shortly afterward. All 155 were rescued as the plane drifted down the river toward the south edge of Manhattan. Sullenberger, 57, an Air Force veteran with more than 40 years of flying experience, told FAA investigators he glided the plane into the river rather than risk crashing into a densely populated area.