Wednesday, January 21, 2009

US Airways Flight 1549 Ditching: NTSB Factual Update

NTSB logoEarlier today, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a factual update on the investigation of US Airways Flight 1549 accident, that is, the A320 that ditched in the Hudson River in New York on the afternoon of January 15, 2009. Information released today focused primarily on the aircraft's engines.

The number one (left) engine, which separated from the aircraft's wing, has been located in about 50 feet of water near the area of the Hudson River where the aircraft ditched, according to the NTSB. Work is underway to recover the engine.

The number two (right) engine has undergone a preliminary external examination. The NTSB says:
An examination of the first stage fan blades revealed evidence of soft body impact damage. Three of the variable guide vanes are fractured and two are missing. The engine's electronic control unit is missing and numerous internal components of the engine were significantly damaged.

What appears to be organic material was found in the right engine and on the wings and fuselage. Samples of the material have been provided to the United States Department of Agriculture for a complete DNA analysis. A single feather was found attached to a flap track on the wing. It is being sent to bird identification experts at the Smithsonian.
Readers will recall that a multiple bird strike during climb-out is widely believed to have started the sequence of events that resulted in the ditching.

The NTSB also confirmed that on January 13, 2009 -- two days before the accident flight -- the aircraft's number two engine "experienced a surge during a flight" and that "subsequent maintenance actions included the replacement of a temperature probe."

Passenger interviews by the NTSB's Survival Factors group are still underway, concerning "the events surrounding the ditching and the emergency evacuation and rescue." In addition, US Airways flight operations training personnel are being interviewed by the NTSB's Operations and Human Performance group.

The NTSB expects that the on-scene documentation of the airplane will be completed by the end of the week. Preparations are underway to move the aircraft to a more permanent storage location so that more detailed documentation of the damage can be performed at a later date.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.