A US Airways jet plunged into the Hudson River on Thursday sparking a rapid race against time to rescue the passengers from the frigid water.
Ferries and fireboats immediately raced to the scene as the plane bobbed in the water on the coldest day of the year.
Flight 1549 from LaGuardia was bound for Charlotte, N.C. and was scheduled to take off at 3 p.m. 15 Jan 2009. It was delayed 26 minutes before it finally took off.
Minutes later, the Airbus A320 with 154 passengers and five crew members was down in the drink and a rescue operation was underway.
MSNBC reported that the pilot said he had slammed into a flock of geese and had to hit the water near the Intrepid museum.
The survivors, including one infant and several senior citizens, as well as five crew members, were transferred by the boats to facilities in Manhattan and on the New Jersey side of the Hudson river.
The hero of Flight 1549, pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger III, walked the aisle of the downed US Airways jet twice looking for passengers before exiting the plane he safely ditched in the Hudson River.
The Governor of New York, David Paterson, said: "There is a heroic pilot who saved himself and 154 other people. We have had a miracle on 34th Street and I believe that today we have had a miracle on the Hudson."
Landing a plane on water is not easy and is rarely attempted. In choosing to do so, the pilot must have decided he would not make it to LaGuardia or Teterboro Airport. The lack of any other large enough space meant the Hudson River was the only option. David Learmount, the operations and safety editor of Flight Global, said it was important to keep the plane "absolutely level" when landing on water, to stop a wing-tip hitting the water first and causing the fuselage to break up.