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Investigators find feather, other evidence on downed plane

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Single feather and evidence of "soft-body impact damage" found on plane
  • Divers report the engine is one piece, New Jersey Police say
  • US Airways flight crash-landed in river after reportedly hitting flock of birds
  • Cockpit and flight data recorders previously recovered are in "excellent" condition
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By Mike M. Ahlers
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Investigators have found a single feather and evidence of "soft-body impact damage" on the US Airways jetliner that was ditched in the Hudson River near Manhattan last week.

A New York Police boat in the Hudson waters Wednesday where divers found one of the plane's engines.

A New York Police boat in the Hudson waters Wednesday where divers found one of the plane's engines.

That find reinforces the pilot's report that the plane was downed by a flock of birds.

The feather, found on a flap track on the wing, is being sent to bird identification experts at the Smithsonian, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

Samples of what appears to be organic material found in the right engine and on the wings and fuselage have been sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Shortly after Flight 1549 took off Thursday, pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, 58, reported his aircraft had struck birds, disabling both engines.

"To this point we have not found anything that has contradicted the pilot's report," NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said Wednesday.

In a preliminary report, the NTSB said the fan blades of the right jet engine revealed evidence of soft-body impact damage. Some components of the engine were fractured and numerous internal components were either missing or damaged, it said.

The plane's left engine, which detached from the plane, evidently upon impact with the water, was found Wednesday in about 50 feet of water, and recovery is expected sometime Thursday, the NTSB said.

The board also confirmed the right engine experienced a surge during a flight on January 13, and subsequent repairs included the replacement of a temperature probe. Investigators said they are examining applicable maintenance records and procedures.

They are also interviewing passengers to learn more about the events during the flight and their subsequent evacuation and rescue.

The divers who found the plane's left engine Wednesday reported the engine is in one piece, said New Jersey State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones. The divers were working from a state police boat.

The engine will be removed "in a matter of days" by the Army Corps of Engineers or a federal contractor, Jones said.

The plane's fuselage was lifted out of the river over the weekend. Authorities said the cockpit and flight data recorders were recovered in excellent condition and information from both recorders was consistent with previous reports of the plane hitting a flock of birds before losing power in both engines.

All 155 people on the plane survived, and Sullenberger has been hailed as a hero.

On Sunday, the National Transportation Safety Board said the plane's cockpit voice recorder captured sounds of loud thumps seconds after the pilot and first officer commented on a nearby flock of birds. The thumps are followed by a "rapid decrease in engine sounds," said NTSB board member Kitty Higgins. She said the flight data recorder indicated "both engines lost power simultaneously" when the plane was at 3,200 feet -- some 90 seconds after takeoff.

On the tape, Sullenberger is heard issuing a "mayday" call and telling air traffic controllers the flight had lost power in both engines, Higgins said.

In addition to Sullenberger, officials, passengers and others have lauded First Officer Jeffrey B. Skiles, 49, as well as rescuers, who acted quickly to minimize passengers' injuries in below-freezing temperature and frigid water. Neither Sullenberger nor Skiles have spoken publicly about the incident.

The Airbus A320 was lifted out of the water and placed on a barge Sunday. After its fuel tanks were drained, the plane was taken by barge across the river to a dock in Jersey City, New Jersey, where investigators planned to begin their work on the aircraft.


Higgins said Sunday the left engine apparently fell off on impact, and divers had been unable to reach it on the river bottom because of icy conditions.

The NTSB at one point said both engines were on the river bottom, but Saturday Higgins said the right engine was still attached to the aircraft. Divers did not see it earlier because of low visibility in the icy water, she said.

CNN's Alona Rivord contributed to this report.

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