The following is from the New York Times’ “City Room” newsblog, by staff writers Matthew L. Wald and Christine Hauser, and was posted on that newspaper’s Web site edition for Wednesday, January 21, 2009.
Two important developments occurred Wednesday in the investigation into the cause of the crash-landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River last week. Police divers found the left engine of the plane, an Airbus A320, in the river, while the National Transportation Safety Board announced that the right engine, which stayed attached to the plane, showed “evidence of soft body impact damage.”
Some blades were cracked and others missing, the board said. Investigators found “what appears to be organic material,’’ which they sent to the Department of Agriculture for DNA analysis and a single feather, which they sent to the Smithsonian Institution for identification.
The right engine “experienced a surge” on a flight two days before the crash, after which maintenance personnel replaced an internal part, a temperature probe, the board said. It did not specify whether there was likely to be any connection to the bird encounter two days later, but other experts said that such a surge could have many causes. The investigators said they would examine the maintenance records.
And, they said, they were removing carry-on and checked bags, and would work with USAirways to return them. Investigators usually weigh such items as they calculate whether the plane’s weight and balance were within specifications.
Earlier on Wednesday, the city’s Police Department confirmed that a large object detected by sonar was the missing left engine that broke off from the jet after it landed in the waterway last week.
Two divers, equipped with hand-held sonar, followed an anchor line down more than 60 feet to the 16-foot-long and 8-foot-wide object, first detected on Monday. There, they came within a few feet of the object and were verbally directed closer to it by a police official on a launch who was monitoring their progress by watching the images from sonar.
The divers went into the water at 2:35 p.m and confirmed they had the engine within 10 minutes, surfacing by 3 p.m., a police spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said. Visibility was six inches in front of them.
Investigators want to examine the left engine of the plane, an Airbus A320, which lost power in both engines 90 seconds after taking off from La Guardia Airport last Thursday and apparently striking birds. The pilot brought the plane down in the river, and all 155 passengers and crew survived after the plane settled on the river surface.
The detection of the aircraft part took careful execution in what could be dangerous conditions. On Wednesday, a Police Department chief, Charles Kammerdener, watched as two divers slipped into the icy water.
Chief Kammerdener, speaking by telephone from the launch, said that he was also watching closely for any migrating fields of ice to make sure that the packs did not encroach on the diving site.
“We are monitoring the water in front of us,” he said. “Should an ice pack move down we have plenty of time to get them up.”
It was not immediately clear when the engine would be brought to the surface. For that operation, the divers will have to fix straps around the engine, and an Army Corps of Engineers vessel, the Hayward, will use its 20-ton crane to lift the engine from the water and bring it to a marina in Jersey City where the rest of the aircraft is being examined by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The engine is estimated to weigh about four tons, and the crane boat was on standby and N.T.S.B. officials were on board, said Thomas M. Creamer, chief of the operations division for the Army Corps in New Jersey and New York.