Divers Hope to Resume Search for Missing Engine

Sonar located an object the size of an engine Tuesday, but experts were unable to identify it

Divers hope to resume their search of the frigid, murky Hudson River on Wednesday for the most coveted piece of debris from the plane that safely splashed down in the river last week: The missing left engine.

New York Police Department harbor officers working with a sonar expert from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration got a reading about 60 feet down of an object 16 feet long and 8 feet wide near where US Airways Flight 1549 made its emergency landing. The engine is about the same size as the object picked up by sonar.

But divers were unable to locate the object Tuesday after running out of daylight and being stifled by swift currents that made it impossible to drop a robotic device with a video camera to confirm whether it is the engine.

Investigators want to closely inspect the engine once it is pulled from the water to better understand if it conked out after hitting birds Thursday.

Police have already located several pieces of debris from the flight, including 35 flotation seat cushions, 12 life jackets, 15 pieces of luggage, two briefcases, 11 purses, 15 suit jackets and shirts, four shoes, and two hats, according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. The plane's right engine is still attached to the body of the plane.

The developments came as hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger attended Barack Obama's inauguration. All Sullenberger would say is, “I'm not allowed to say anything.”

Two days before the emergency landing, the same plane experienced a compressor stall while in flight. Passengers aboard the flight that left LaGuardia Airport on Jan. 13 reported hearing loud bangs from the right side of the plane. A short time later the situation appeared to return to normal and the flight continued on to Charlotte, N.C.

The compressor is essentially a fan that draws air into the engine and helps create thrust for the jet. A compressor stall is a situation of abnormal airflow resulting from a stall of the blades within the compressor. Compressor stalls can vary in severity from a momentary engine power drop to a complete loss of compression requiring a reduction in the fuel flow to the engine.

The stall will no doubt be looked at as the investigation moves forward, but pilots and aviation experts doubt the malfunction made the plane more vulnerable to the bird strikes that are believed to have imperiled the Airbus A320.

Retired Delta Air Lines pilot Joe Mazzone, who has flown planes that had compressor stalls, said he doesn't believe a compressor stall could have created or added to the total engine failure vis-a-vis a bird strike.

“If you have a big Canadian goose ingested in those engines, I would bet the farm that's what caused the engines to quit,” Mazzone said. “The compressor stall would be a totally different issue unrelated to those birds.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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