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Pilot kept calm when ditching plane

The half-submerged US Air jet is docked in Battery Park City after it drifted downriver following an emergency water landing in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 in New York City. (UPI Photo/Monika Graff)
The half-submerged US Air jet is docked in Battery Park City after it drifted downriver following an emergency water landing in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 in New York City. (UPI Photo/Monika Graff) | License Photo

NEW YORK, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The pilot and crew of US Airways Flight 1549 are credited for quick, calm reactions in ditching the aircraft in New York's Hudson River without fatalities.

Initial reviews of audiotapes of conversations between the cockpit and air traffic controllers indicate the pilot, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, handled the emergency river landing with composure, avoiding major injuries and evacuating the 155 Airbus A320, passengers and crew, officials told The New York Times.

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Part of the investigation into the crash will focus on why the plane was the only one to report a bird problem in some of the most congested airspace in the world, and why it lost both engines before landing in the river near 57th Street close to the restored aircraft carrier Intrepid, the Times said.

The New York-to-Charlotte, N.C., flight went down seven minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport after losing both engines to bird strikes. After ditching in the river, the 150 passengers and five crew members were safely evacuated.

US Airways pilots say they drill for water landings in a simulator, but no one knows how realistic the training is.

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"You're landing on a big blue screen," said one US Airways A320 pilot, referring to the flat-panel computer screens in the simulator. "Better to land at an airport where there's actual crash-fire-rescue."

The pilot and other experts said the crew appeared to have done a good job.

John Cox, a safety consultant who flew the A320 for US Airways. Cox said he knew Sullenberger, a former fighter pilot with 40 years experience, commenting he was "a seriously good aviator."

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