In cockpit voice recording, an unrattled Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger tells the controller he's "unable" to return to airport

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated February 05, 2009 12:20 PM
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Credit: Janis Krums/AP; inset: REUTERS/Landov

Hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger calmly warned air traffic control in advance that he might be forced to bring US Airways Flight 1549 plane down in the water, according to recordings released Thursday by the FAA.

In what has been called a miracle, Sullenberger landed the plane safely in the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey. All 155 passengers and crewmembers onboard survived.

To hear the recordings, click here.

As heard in the tapes, after taking off from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Sullenberger tells traffic controllers that he’s lost both engines on the Airbus A320 and would turn back.

“We’ve got an emergency return,” a controller says, “He’s had a bird strike. He’s returning immediately.”

Informed by controllers “Runway 4 is available if you want to make left traffic to Runway 4,” Sullenberger replies, simply, “Unable.”

Later, he asks, “Anything in New Jersey, maybe Teterboro [Airport]?”

Once Teterboro Airport is recommended, Sullenberger then says, “We’re unable. We may wind up in the Hudson.”