NTSB Finds Engine Damage, Feather

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2009

Federal accident investigators said they had found what appeared to be organic material in an engine of a downed US Airways jet, as well as a feather and other physical evidence that corroborated the crew's accounts of a collision with birds shortly after takeoff from New York's La Guardia Airport.

The National Safety Transportation Safety Board yesterday said an external examination of the plane's right engine revealed evidence of "soft body impact" damage on fan blades. The agency said its review showed that internal engine parts were either significantly damaged or missing.

Additionally, the NTSB reported that it had located the left engine in about 50 feet of water near the area of the Hudson River where the plane was ditched. Investigators have been hunting for the missing engine since Friday, a day after the accident. All 155 passengers and crew members aboard survived.

John Cox, a former US Airways pilot and former safety investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association, said results of the engine probe so far were consistent with a bird striking the engine fan, damaging metal pieces that then broke loose. The pieces were pulled deeper inside the engine, causing further damage, he said.

The NTSB said the organic material was found inside the engine, on the plane's wings and on other parts of the plane. Additionally, investigators found a single feather attached to a part known as a flap track of one of the plane's wings.

Samples of the material have been sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for DNA analysis, the NTSB said. The feather will go to bird identification experts at the Smithsonian Institution.

The NTSB has said that pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III told investigators that the plane struck a flock of birds, causing the engines to lose power.

In addition, the agency said it had begun investigating the right engine's maintenance records after learning that it surged during a Jan. 13 flight.

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