NTSB: A320 lost thrust in both engines, tried returning to LaGuardia

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Investigators have disclosed that the crew of a US Airways Airbus A320, which crashed into New York's Hudson River on 15 January, attempted to return to LaGuardia Airport after telling air traffic controllers that both engines had lost thrust.

In an update to the inquiry the National Transportation Safety Board says that radar data from the vicinity of Newark and New York JFK show that at 15:27:01, about 90 seconds after departure, flight 1549's flight path intersected primary targets at around 2,900-3,000ft.

The incident occurred about 8km north of LaGuardia, around the area above Bronx Zoo.

A spokeswoman for the NTSB says that the primary targets were "consistent" with the crew's identification of birds at the time, but adds that the targets did not show up on departure control radar.

She states that the crew transmitted to air traffic control that the jet had "hit birds" and "lost thrust in both engines", and adds that the pilots advised they were "turning back towards LaGuardia".

Air traffic control instructed the aircraft to turn left, heading 220°, and at 15:27:49 the LaGuardia tower was asked to halt departures because an aircraft was returning to the airport.

Sixteen seconds later, at 15:28:05, air traffic control asked the A320 crew whether LaGuardia's runway 13 was acceptable, but the pilot responded "unable" and added: "We may end up in the Hudson."

The spokeswoman says there was "some discussion" on whether the aircraft could land at Teterboro Airport which was about 10km off the right side.

But the pilot stated, "We can't do it," and after another inquiry from air traffic control about the preferred LaGuardia runway, the pilot said: "We're going to be in the Hudson."

The NTSB has yet to clarify which of the two pilots was flying the aircraft at the time of the accident.

Recovery teams at the crash site are only searching for one of the A320's CFM International CFM56 powerplants - the left engine - because the starboard one, contrary to initial belief, is still attached to the wing. Efforts are underway to lift the jet from the river and retrieve its flight recorders.