Hudson crash: A320's engines lost power simultaneously

By David Kaminski-Morrow

Initial flight-recorder information from the US Airways Airbus A320 which crashed into New York's Hudson River shows that both engines lost power simultaneously, and that the aircraft reached a maximum altitude of 3,200ft.

The National Transportation Safety Board has disclosed preliminary data from the two recorders on board the aircraft, retrieved after the airframe was lifted from the river.

Cockpit-voice recorder information identifies the first officer as the flying pilot at the beginning of flight 1549 to Charlotte on 15 January.

The CVR has 30min of "excellent quality" data, says a spokeswoman for the NTSB, adding that the pre-flight checks, taxiing and take-off from New York LaGuardia Airport were normal.

Flight 1549 was cleared for take-off from runway 04 at 15:24:54, and instructed to make a left turn to heading 360°. One minute later, LaGuardia tower instructed the crew to contact New York terminal radar departure control.

At 15:25:51 the pilot contacted the departure controller, advising that the jet was at 700ft and climbing to 5,000ft, and the controller cleared the aircraft to 15,000ft. The aircraft was also subsequently given an instruction to turn left, heading 270°.

But around 90 seconds after take-off, says the NTSB spokeswoman, the CVR records the captain remarking about birds and, one second later, there is a "sound of thumps" and the engine noise starts "rapidly decreasing". At this point the captain acknowledged that both engines had lost thrust and took control of the aircraft.

The flight-data recorder - which also has good-quality information, says the spokeswoman - reveals that the A320 reached a maximum altitude of 3,200ft and that there was a simultaneous loss of power in both engines.

CVR information shows that the crew began reading appropriate checklists in a bid to restart the engines but were unsuccessful. The captain declared a 'Mayday' to air traffic control and advised that they were returning to LaGuardia.

There was a discussion with air traffic control about a possible diversion to Teterboro Airport but the crew began to conclude that neither airport could be reached and the captain made a public-address announcement to brace for impact about 90 seconds before the A320 ditched in the Hudson River. The ground-proximity warning system activated and the recording ended with the water impact, about 3.5min after the loss of engine power.

© Reed Business Information 2009

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