NTSB Tries to Extract Downed Airliner, Fails


The tail of Flight 1459 bobs out of the water, surrounded by disaster personnel. (click to enlarge)

Saturday, the city tried for a second time to pull doomed US Airways Flight 1549 out of the soup. After the belly flop into the Hudson River on Thursday afternoon, the corpse of the airline–from which all passengers and crew had miraculously been saved–drifted lazily down the Hudson River in the outgoing tide, surrounded by mini-icebergs that had come from further upstate, in the biggest cold snap the city had seen in three years. It was eventually tethered to the concrete sea wall at Battery Park City, near the southern tip of Manhattan.

One of the cranes, and one of the tugs that held the barges in place, in the swift-flowing and icy current

The extraction had been scheduled for 10:30 in the morning, but was postponed till noon due to the temperature of 11 degrees. By noon a heat wave had hit the concrete sea wall at Battery Park City: the temperature had risen to 19 degrees, and a carnival atmosphere prevailed among spectators lined up a few hundred yards from the airliner behind yellow tape that comically read “Crime Scene.”

The crane is outfitted with a harness, to raise the fuselage. One of the engines has already been salvaged, but one remains attached.

The spectators were outnumbered by news trucks and vans from several city agencies. One reporter with a fire department patch wore a jacket emblazoned “Fire News.” A pair of barge-based red cranes from Weeks Marine had been maneuvered into position, and a sling was fitted onto one of the depending cables. Visible to the crowd, as the plane shifted in the currents among slushy ice, was the red and blue tail, and a wing that thrust further out of the water as the minutes went by.

One wing also flopped out of the water

According to authorities, the plane continued to take on water, making it more difficult to pull it out of the river. Red flags with diagonal white stripes indicated that divers were at work under water.

But by 12:17, the assembled media multitudes were informed that the ice and cold would prevent the plane from being raised, as least for a few more hours, and maybe till tomorrow.

For hardy New Yorkers, the scene provided an exciting midwinter diversion  

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 17, 2009

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