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As the city hailed the flight crew involved in the near−miraculous water landing of a jetliner and lauded the rescuers of its passengers from the frigid Hudson River, state officials called for toughening measures to control the Canada geese population around LaGuardia Airport that is suspected of bringing down the US Airways plane just minutes after takeoff.
US Airways Flight 1549 had 150 passengers and five crew on board when it took off at 3:24 p.m. from LaGuardia for Charlotte, N.C. at 3:03 p.m. last Thursday. Among the passengers were a number of employees from Charlotte−based Bank of America as well as two babies.
About five minutes later, Capt. Chesney Sullenberger guided the plane to land in the Hudson off midtown Manhattan after reporting that the plane had encountered a flock of birds and both engines had failed.
No one on board was seriously injured and all were quickly rescued by an improvised flotilla of ferries and tugboats as they stood on the wings of the doomed jet and waited in life rafts.
In the aftermath of the accident, state Sens. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) and Eric Adams (D−Brooklyn) announced Monday they would commission a study to explore the possibility of expanding the radius around the airport designed to keep it clear of birds like the Canada geese which are believed to have been sucked into the Airbus A320’s two engines.
“We need to move rapidly with decisive motion,” Monserrate said.
The birds currently flock to areas like the World’s Fair Marina, only a few hundred feet from the runways.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey currently uses traps and sonic deterrence devices to keep the birds away, Monserrate said.
While bird strikes are being blamed in the crash of Flight 1549, the New York Post reported that the same airplane experienced an engine compressor stall Jan. 13 while flying the same route. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board have said the crash investigation will take a year to complete.
In the meantime, the city celebrated its newfound heroes. Gov. David Paterson called the spontaneous rescue operations the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
Sullenberger, who walked the aisle of the sinking plane twice to check for passengers before leaving the jet, was saluted as a hero as rescuers, passengers and city officials gathered at the New York Waterway ferry terminal at 40th Street and the Hudson River in bone−chilling cold.
“It wasn’t like a movie,” said Terrence Maxwell, a deckhand on a ferry that was docked in New Jersey at the time. “It just hit. The pilot, he did a good job.”
“It would appear the pilot did a masterful job,” Bloomberg said during a news conference at the terminal, where passengers draped in American Red Cross blankets were whisked past media and into waiting buses.
Crew members from New York Waterway and the Circle Line were also cited for their valor.
“I turned around, saw the plane in the water, and I reacted,” said Capt. Vince Lombardi, 32, whose ferry, the Thomas Jefferson, was the first boat at the scene. “You die from hypothermia after about five minutes out there.” Water in the Hudson was 36 degrees Thursday, officials said.
Wilfredo Rivera, 26, a deckhand on the Thomas Jefferson, said his boat reached the stricken airliner about 2 1⁄2 minutes after it crashed, rescuing 56 passengers.
“Everybody was upset, nervous, crying, screaming, ‘We’re gonna die,’ ” he said. “It was unbelievable.”
Back at LaGuardia’s US Airways terminal, travelers did not seem fazed just hours after the crash.
“I don’t feel afraid to fly, but I feel bad for what happened to those on that plane,” said Kelly Peter of Washington D.C.
Washington resident Sapna Yathiraj, who flies to New York monthly, said she is always nervous when she flies, but did not see Flight 1549 as a game−changer.
“It was a freak accident,” she said.
Neither woman said she would stop flying US Airways.
Reporters Howard Koplowitz and Ivan Pereira contributed to this article.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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