WASHINGTON — A US Airways pilot reported a “double bird strike” less than a minute after takeoff today and was headed for an emergency landing in New Jersey when he ditched into the Hudson River, an air controllers union spokesman said.
The pilot of the Airbus 320 was climbing to 1,500 feet when he reported the bird strikes about 30 to 45 seconds after a normal takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, National Air Traffic Controllers Association spokesman Doug Church said. Church said the pilot apparently meant that birds had hit both of the plane’s jet engines. When he reported the bird strike, the pilot asked to return to the ground immediately.
Church’s account came from employees at the New York TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control Center) in Westbury, N.Y., which was handling the aircraft after its takeoff.
According to Church:
The controller then issued instructions to turn the aircraft back to LaGuardia, when the pilot, then over northern New Jersey, looked down, saw an airstrip and asked, “What airport is that?”
The controller replied: “That’s Teterboro.” A smaller suburban airport near Newark that serves primarily commuter and private aviation.
The pilot said he wanted to land there.
The controller then gave instructions to divert the aircraft to Teterboro’s Runway 1 for an emergency landing.
That was the last transmission between the aircraft and the New York TRACON, Church said. At that point, the aircraft had reached about 5,000 feet, Church estimated.
“There was no ‘mayday’ or emergency distress signal from the plane’s transponder during the entire episode, which lasted about five or six minutes,” Church said.
The TRACON takes control of departing flights from airport tower controllers after liftoff and handles them out to a radius of about 40 miles and an altitude of 10,000 to 12,000 feet, when they are turned over to an en route air control center.