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Hudson survivor: Hearing pilot on tape 'stressful,' 'exhilarating'

  • Story Highlights
  • Four survivors of Flight 1549 react to recording of pilot dealing with emergency
  • "I'm really not keen on hearing it too many more times," one survivor says
  • "How did [the pilot] get that composure?" another survivor asks
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(CNN) -- Four survivors of the US Airways Flight 1549 that went down in the Hudson River appeared on "Larry King Live" Thursday to discuss a recording of the pilot calmly telling an air traffic controller the plane would ditch.

Surveillance video shows passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 hurrying onto the plane's wings.

Carl Bazarian, clockwise from left, Vince Spera, Alberto Panero and Brad Wentzell appeared on "Larry King Live."

"We're gonna be in the Hudson," pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger radioed on January 15, about three and a half minutes after the Airbus A320 took off from New York's LaGuardia Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration released the recording on Thursday, a day after the National Transportation Safety Board said both the plane's engines contained the remains of birds.

Larry King: Carl, what goes through you when you hear the recording, especially the calmness?

Carl Bazarian, survivor: You know, to me -- my son played it for me this morning. I found it incredibly stressful and sobering that we were so close to death. And that's the bad side. And I'm really not keen on hearing it too many more times. But on the other side, it's exhilarating. Again, we were blessed with the best feat in aviation, with the best pilot and co-pilot. That's all I can say.

King: Vince, what goes through your mind?

Vince Spera, survivor: Larry, the entire conversation that you hear going back and forth is just indicative of how the entire cabin was. It was calm, controlled, but tense. That's really what that conversation started to sound like to me. Video Listen to pilot's communication with flight controller »

King: Alberto?

Hero pilot on 'Larry King'
Watch the heroic US Airways pilot and crew in their first live primetime interview.
Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET on CNN

Alberto Panero, survivor: It's filling in pieces to the puzzle. While everything was going on in the plane, we didn't have much information of what was going on actually. So hearing this now kind of fits into the puzzle, where we see where I was at the point when everything was happening in the plane.

King: Brad?

Brad Wentzell, survivor: It's an amazing thing to hear, not only from our perspective, when we were basically going for a ride, but to hear from the man who -- just him and the Good Lord had our lives in his hand.

King: How do you feel, Carl -- you'll see the whole crew with us Tuesday night -- when you hear the captain talk?

Bazarian: First thing, he's very honest about it. But I don't know how -- we all had disbelief. It was all surreal. How then he was so energized to exhibit the highest professionalism. I think it's an incredible aviation feat. And my fellow friends, they will comment. But how did he get that composure? Video Watch survivors react to hearing the tape »

We were all panicky. Not panicky, I think Vince is right. We were kind of cool, but concerned, overly concerned. How did he regain himself and do what he did? I don't know how he did it.

King: Vince, were there a lot of moments, Vince, when you thought you bought it?

Spera: Actually, no. There was never a point in time when I thought I was going to die. Obviously, I think the way the people in the cabin behaved contributed to my feeling that way. It was just a lot of control. We felt like the pilot was in control. Obviously, it all worked out. At no point did I feel like I was going to die. I'm very happy to hear the captain truly didn't feel that way either.

King: Alberto, how about when it hit the water? Did you think you were going to go under?

Panero: No. I think as soon as we hit the water, we realized that the worst was over and the most important thing was to get out as soon as possible, making sure that the doors got open quickly and that everybody stayed calm and tried to exit as calmly as possible, because at first people were trying to get out quick and trying to push a little bit. But I think everybody realized that the more organized that we did it, the faster we would get out. I think that helped out a lot.

King: Brad, the last few weeks, have you had flashbacks? Do you think about it a lot?

Wentzell: I've had a few flashbacks. For me the most real thing that I keep playing back in my head is saying goodbye to my family in prayer and saying goodbye to my little daughter, my loved ones, my wife, and waiting to die. It's a very real feeling. I wasn't as optimistic. No one ever knows when they're going to die. I felt that was my time. Apparently, the Good Lord still has a few things for me to do on this Earth.

King: Carl, you're looking out the window here, I guess.

Bazarian: Yes, I was.

King: What are you thinking?

Bazarian: The first reality when we hit, I thought, initially, the landing was so good I thought we were back on the tarmac. That was my immediate reaction. But then the water -- immediately, we saw the water out the window. Again, like Vince said, when we saw that daylight of the door opening, it wasn't a herd of people trying to rush out. It was pretty good composure. I guess Vince is right. We picked up on the courage of the crew and the flight attendants.

King: Vince, there was one passenger who thought he landed.

Spera: Yes. I heard several stories about reactions of different people. Honestly, most of the people knew exactly what was going on and they really just wanted to get out and get to safety. But I did hear somebody attempting to pick up their bag and do some other things like that. Fortunately, most of those people were on the right side of the plane. I got to get out the left.

King: Alberto, have you flown since?

Panero: Actually, I have. The next day I took a plane home. I figured that was going to be the easiest way to just get over any kind of possible trauma, just get back on the plane. And I just kept focused on seeing my family and friends and that got me through the flight pretty well. And also the lady that was sitting next to me was very nice and just happened to make friendly conversation. So it worked out pretty good.


Panero: Brad, have you met the captain?

Wentzell: I did meet the captain. That was very real thing. He's just as cool and calm in person as you would expect, for someone who was able to do, from what I believe, no one else on the planet could do. He was very humble. I think we all have been humbled from this experience.

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