Ditched plane's crew, controller to testify

February 24, 2009 4:31:33 AM PST
The pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, which ditched into New York's Hudson River last month, calmly radioed to air traffic controllers, "We're going to be in the Hudson." [AUDIO: Hear the conversation between the pilot and air traffic control]
[PHOTOS: See images from the amazing landing]

Lawmakers want to know what lessons can be learned regarding procedures and training for emergency landings, and how to reduce the potential for collisions between birds and aircraft.

All 155 aboard US Airways Flight 1549 survived the Jan. 15 river landing after the Airbus A320 apparently sucked birds into both engines.

The crew and passengers of a helicopter that crashed en route to an oil platform on Jan. 4 weren't as lucky. The National Transportation Safety Board reported Monday that investigators have found evidence birds were involved in the accident near Morgan City, La., that killed eight of nine people aboard.

A panel of government and aviation experts, including members of a national committee that researches the danger of bird collisions, will also testify before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Patrick Harten's testimony will mark the first time the controller has publicly discussed the tension-filled minutes on Jan. 15 when he tried urgently to get Flight 1549 safely on the ground after it reported striking birds and losing thrust in both engines.

Making lightning-quick decisions, Harten -- a controller at the New York radar facility that handles aircraft within 40 miles of three major airports -- first tried to return the airliner to LaGuardia Airport, and then sought to send the plane to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who will also testify, told Harten he was unable to make either airport. He wound up gliding the plane into the river rather than chance a catastrophic crash in a populated area.

NTSB investigators have said bird remains found in both engines of the downed plane have been identified as Canada geese.

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