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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Miracle on the Hudson as All Survive Plane Landing; President Bush's Farewell Address Summarizes Two Terms; Senate Releases Remainder of Bailout Package

Aired January 15, 2009 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, as you may know, having seen them through much of the day, the pictures are striking but no less amazing than the reality that 155 men, women and children lived through today.

Look at this. This is what thousands of New Yorkers saw this afternoon. An airliner too low and going the wrong way down the Hudson River not, thank goodness, what it looked like -- not a hijacked plane. US Airways Flight 1549 was doomed. The Airbus 320 both engines crippled, possibly by birds, with nowhere to land but the water.

Now, look at the aftermath. The airliner intact and still floating; the landing by a captain with experience flying gliders -- picture perfect. The passengers safe, surrounded by a fleet of rescue boats, local ferries, tugs, coast guard vessels.

And tonight, yet another remarkable picture, the airbus tied up in lower Manhattan, a kind of jerry-rigged mooring for a ship built to fly, not float, and land on runways, not rivers.

Tonight, the investigation and what the passengers went through, how birds might have caused it and how, and for a change, almost everything went right. Adding up to what New York's governor today called the "Miracle on the Hudson."

We begin with David Mattingly. He's downtown on the river with all the latest details -- David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, that twin engine jet in the water behind me it was corralled and tied-up here by the Coast Guard. This is where the investigation is going to begin right here where that plane is tied up.

The first big question they're going to attempt to answer. Was it a collision with a flock of geese that brought this jet down?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: Passengers heard an explosion or blast from the engine and then flames. "Brace for impact," that was the captain's terrifying warning, his only warning, moments before this US Airways jet hit the Hudson River. ALBERTON PANERO, PASSENGER: All of a sudden, you just heard a loud bang and the plane shook a bit. And immediately, you know, you could smell, like, smoke or, like, fire.

JEFF KOLODJAY, PASSENGER: The captain came on and said, "We're going to dump this plane. Brace for impact and probably brace pretty hard." And that's what we did. And kudos to him, man. He did a great job.

So we dumped it and the plane started filling with water really quick. And everyone was just super cool.

MATTINGLY: The image, surreal and chilling; a gleaming Airbus 320 resting on the surface, drifting with the current and slowing sinking.

For the 155 people inside, there were prayers and there was fear. At first, some panic.

PANERO: There was a couple of people who just kind of took charge and just started yelling to calm down and just to get everybody out. And once, I think, people realized that we were going to be OK, everybody kind of calmed down and just tried to get outside of the boat.

MATTINGLY: Here is what we know. According to the FAA, Flight 1549 bound for Charlotte, took off at 3:26 p.m. from Runway No. 4 at LaGuardia Airport.

Aviation sources tell CNN that three to four minutes later, the pilot reported one or more birds struck the plane causing engine failure. The crew attempted to fly back to an airport but decided to ditch the plane in the Hudson River. The crippled jet glided into the 32-degree water just off the west side of Manhattan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in an office building on the 25th floor. A short time ago, I saw what looked to be a very small commercial airplane flying south along the Hudson River, making what appeared to be a very gradual landing. I then saw the plane hit the water. It made a big splash.

MATTINGLY: Ferries rushed to rescue the victims who stood on the wings waiting to be rescued or were seated in life rafts that were inflated after impact. Passengers credit the pilots for getting everyone out alive. The captain, Chesley Sullenberger, is a 29 year veteran with US Airways. He is also a certified glider instructor.

In video and CNN iReports, an incredible scene and an unbelievable ending to what some are calling a miracle.

MATTINGLY: How are you feeling?

KOLODJAY: I feel like a million bucks, man.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY: The NTSB now, assembling a team of about 20 investigators to take a look at this crash. And something they do in every investigation like this, Campbell, is look at the actions of the pilot.

Of course tonight, everyone calling that pilot a hero, saying he did everything right to keep everyone alive.

BROWN: All right, David Mattingly for us tonight with all the latest. David thanks.

And you heard a bit from Alberto Panero in David's report. We're pleased to have him on the program with us right now. And Alberto, good to have you back. You and I had a chance to talk a little bit earlier tonight.

PANERO: Yes.

BROWN: And you said to me, I can't stop smiling.

PANERO: It's true. I mean, at a moment like this, I feel like I should be upset and crying. Still a little bit overwhelming. But I can't stop smiling because I'm just so happy to be alive. It's that feeling that I'm alive. There's nothing that I could explain it.

BROWN: A miracle.

PANERO: Yes.

BROWN: I mean, you've heard it said a million times today.

PANERO: Yes, absolutely.

BROWN: Walk us through it. Take us back to that moment on the plane when you first heard a noise and you knew something was wrong.

PANERO: Again, you know we had just taken off and I was kind of dozing off and leaning upon my window. And all of a sudden I felt that plane shake and there was a loud noise. And immediately you could smell smoke, just kind of like something was burning.

And people within the plane kind of started to realize there was something wrong. I wasn't too concerned, although I was a little nervous, because I thought the right engine was still working. And I thought we were going to turn around and go to LaGuardia.

And as soon as he made the big U-turn, I'm like, cool, we're headed back home. I mean, I have to get on another flight. Once we started going down and going down pretty fast, I realized maybe not so much. As soon as he came on and said, brace for impact, that was the moment that everything kind of got confirmed that we were going down.

BROWN: So explain that moment because that was it. You know, those words took it to a different level for you.

PANERO: Right. BROWN: I mean, what did it feel like? What was going through your head?

PANERO: Well, the first thing for some reason I thought to turn my phone on because it has GPS. So I figured if anything even if I was knocked out, they could maybe find me through GPS or something like that.

Then I thought about my family. And I thought about, you know, they're going to have to tell the story, the sad story, and how upset they were going to be that I was pretty sure --

BROWN: -- young doctor, had his whole life ahead of him.

PANERO: Yes, had his whole life ahead. I had just called in the great news about my residency. And all of that was just going to go. I called my mom and gave her some good news 25 minutes before I got on the plane. And, you know, 30 minutes later, I was dead, so -- or would have been.

So that kind of crossed through my mind. And at the same time, part of me was really trying to stay calm. Because I didn't know what was going to happen.

BROWN: So describe what it felt like. The impact when you hit the water.

PANERO: The impact was kind of -- everything kind of gets a little bit into slow motion. Unfortunately, I've been in a car crash before, not as a driver, but as a passenger. And it felt the same way; just really forceful forwards and backwards.

And then again, I remember I think the window popped off on the side, things kind of were breaking. The lights kind of turned off. It got real like smoky inside. And then the next thing, you know, you could see the water just start coming up on the side.

But at that moment, I was expecting to have been killed by that. Because I guess you see the movies and what you imagine in your head. As soon as it hit, I was expecting something to launch forward and kill me or explode or death or whatever I thought it was.

And when that didn't happen, it was such a relief. Within the second, it was just like, OK, get your seat belt off and get out of the plane. And I think that's what everybody kind of had in mind. I'm pretty sure people were yelling, we're all right, we're all right.

And I think everybody was kind of just, "Whoa. I can't believe it."

BROWN: It was not much longer after that that everybody was in the life rafts and safe.

PANERO: Correct, yes correct.

BROWN: In freezing cold temperatures but still everybody ok. PANERO: Yes.

BROWN: And again, you had a chance to talk to your family. They must just be -- I can't even imagine the feeling tonight.

PANERO: Yes, you know, this is one of those things like Larry said earlier. That how can a plane crash bring so much joy? Well, I think this is one of those supposed to be tragedies that are going to be like just a happy story that I'm still here. And it's obviously for a reason. So I'm hoping that I just have great things coming up now.

BROWN: Well, I love seeing that smile on your face, Alberto. Safe travels home back to Florida, OK?

PANERO: Yes.

BROWN: Good to have you here.

PANERO: Thank you very much.

BROWN: Thank you so much.

We're going to talk more about what the flight crew dealt with, the decisions they made, the amazing landing that they pulled off.

For nearly three decades, Jim Tillman flew for American Airlines. And he's joining us right now from Phoenix.

And Jim, a forced landing where the plane remains intact, everyone survived is almost unheard of. I mean some people -- all of us have been calling it a miracle. What kind of skill does it take for a pilot to make a landing like this?

JIM TILLMAN, FORMER PILOT, AMERICAN AIRLINES: Remarkable skill. However, I have to tell you that the training that airline pilots go through is extremely thorough. These are people who really have gone through the mill, you might say. We don't have any junior pilots flying around in airliners today because of a lot of things.

But these are people who have a lot of experience. And experience is what won the game today.

BROWN: And Jim, an official who heard recordings said the radio traffic from the flight said this pilot was extraordinarily calm and methodical. I mean, I know you say "training" but does it ever -- all the training in the world, does it ever prepare you for something like this?

TILLMAN: Well, I don't know about the preparation except that you have so much to do. You're busy. You've got to make the decisions. You know you have to make them.

I suppose Airline Flying 101 says when there's an emergency, the first thing you do is calm down and remember your major mission is to fly the airplane. It's that simple. BROWN: I'm going to certainly ask you to speculate on this one. And I know you can't know. But an aviation source told CNN that air traffic controllers saw the plane clear the George Washington Bridge by less than 900 feet.

This could have been so much worse.

TILLMAN: For a lot of reasons it could have been. You have to realize, he was flying in the vicinity of some of the most densely populated areas in the country. And if that aircraft had found any place other than that river to land, we could be talking about a completely different story tonight.

BROWN: And the pilot was reportedly headed for an emergency landing in New Jersey when he ditched the plane into the river. Any idea what would have made him change his mind? I mean, he just had a realization obviously that he couldn't make it.

TILLMAN: Well, obviously I wasn't there. But I can tell you right now, that experience lets you know something about time and distance. You understand just from the sight picture where you are in respect to the runway.

And you can make a pretty quick judgment as to whether or not you're going to make it. And he decided not to try to stretch it. You don't stretch a glide like that. You have no recourse if you don't make it.

BROWN: Right.

TILLMAN: You've got to take something that is going to work. And he did that, his decisions were remarkable. His decisions were right on target. And I can't imagine how he could have done it any better had he planned for it for a month.

BROWN: And it's believed, Jim, that a double bird strike was responsible for the incident. How common are bird strikes, and are pilots required to receive any training to deal with them?

TILLMAN: Well, they are more common than the news would report. Because so many times it's uneventful. I mean, you know, you knock out one engine, it's not a big deal. You call the tower and saying you're coming back. You come back and land, nobody knows. The passengers know something is going on but nobody really notice -- it's not a big news story.

But both engines at the same time, that's very, very rare. He must have really struck a very large flock of geese. I've got to tell you, that it happened so fast until that's where the reactions of the pilot really count.

You have to make the right decisions. You have to make them right now. And you have to do everything you've been trained to do to make this thing work out. And his landing is probably one of the best water landings I've ever heard of anytime, anyplace. BROWN: All right, Jim Tillman, former pilot for American Airlines. Jim, it's so good to have you on, I appreciate your insight on all this. Thanks very much.

TILLMAN: My pleasure.

BROWN: More on this amazing story just ahead. And join the live chat happening right now at AC360.com. And check out Erica Hill's live Webcast during the break.

Coming up next, more on Captain Sullenberger -- the man who pulled off the nearly impossible today and saved more than 155 lives.

Later, the possible cause of all this, birds. And why they pose such a threat to lives in the air.

And after eight years in office, President Bush did give his farewell address to the nation tonight. You might be surprised to hear what he had to say. We're going to have that more on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF KOLODJAY, PASSENGER: And it seemed like everyone made it out all right. We hit the water pretty hard but kudos to the pilot you did a hell of a job. He saved my life. So I'm happy and thankful to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: A grateful survivor and a story with nothing but survivors. Amazingly so, landing a plane without power is tricky enough; doing it on water, not concrete, without serious injuries, almost impossible. The flight crew did a great job.

We're going to get more now on the Captain, C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger from Erica Hill, who has the details -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Campbell, I have to say, pretty much everyone we have heard speak out today has echoed the sentiments of that one passenger. Talk about being grateful, they're all praising the captain, Chelsey B. Sullenberger III. Although we understand he's known as Sully.

Experience in training were key today, we've heard it over and over again. And according to his bio on both LinkedIn and his company Web site, this man has plenty of both.

Sullenberger has been flying with US Airways for nearly three decades. Prior to his time as a commercial pilot, he was an Air Force fighter pilot; he's a graduate of the Air Force Academy.

He's also served as an instructor and a safety chairman for the Airline Pilots Association and he runs his own company. It's called Safety Reliability Methods. Get this. They actually consult on safety in high-risk industries. Sullenberger has not spoken out publicly since the crash.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg however, did meet with him shortly after the plane have evacuated and had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: It would appear that the pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure that everybody got out. I had a long conversation with the pilot, he walked the plane twice after everybody else was off and tried to verify that there was nobody else on board and assures us there were not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: A CNN producer also spoke with Sullenberger's wife at the couple's home in California. She did confirm her husband had called her after the crash to let her know he was ok.

She said though, she didn't want to do an interview until here husband actually gave her clearance to do so, Campbell, which at this point probably understandable.

BROWN: Yes.

HILL: He probably needs a little time to process everything.

BROWN: Could we have moment?

Erica Hill for us tonight. Erica, thanks. We'll see you in a few minutes.

The medical angle, coming up next: what passengers went through in the water and what they'll likely be going through in their minds.

Drs. Sanjay Gupta and Gail Saltz, joining us when we comeback.

Also, Tom Foreman takes us on the flight path and shows us just how few options and how little time the flight crew actually had.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN JOHNS, EYEWITNESS: And I saw this aircraft, very, very low. And I said, "That guy's low." And I looked up, and there were flames coming out of the number one engine. And I knew that the plane was in trouble. I called 911 right away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: One hundred fifty-five men, women and children coming off a plane in the water, icy water on one of the coldest days of the year. A number have, in fact, been treated now for exposure to the elements. Each and every one of them also exposed obviously here to serious mental trauma. Joining us now, 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta and psychiatrist Gail Saltz as well.

Sanjay let me start with you, the temperature in the Hudson today especially above freezing. Just above freezing --

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BROWN: Explain what sort of danger those passengers were facing.

GUPTA: Well, hypothermia, I mean you've talking about it all evening. That's a real concern and it can set in right away with the water that cold. And it can progress pretty rapidly as well.

You're 20 minutes into your show right now, Campbell. Someone had been in water that cold for this long, they could have profound hypothermia. Water tends to absorb heat from the body much quicker than air does, which is why cold water is so much bigger a problem than cold air. You may start to feel sluggish lethargy; you may start to lose consciousness.

But I want to tell you what happens in the body as well. If you go ahead and spin that animation, the body sort to goes into triage. Protect the heart and protect the brain. Blood sort of gets fused from those areas to those areas and the rest of the body gets kind of cold and turns blue.

But even more importantly is what's happening sort of at the cellular level. At the molecular level -- if we can zoom into these cells and then show us a blood vessel as well -- you'll see these red blood cells going through here as it gets colder and colder this blood cells tend to slow down, become sluggish and come to a stop.

And that is what is happening here Campbell, in a situation like this. That's what can cause organ damage and all this other profound hypothermia symptoms.

Luckily, we're not hearing of anybody at any of the hospitals that took care of profound hypothermia, just mild hypothermia tonight.

BROWN: Gail, let me turn to you on this. Some of the passengers, Alberto, one of the survivors, was here a moment ago. And they sound very calm, they sound happy and celebratory, relieved.

But there's also got to be a lot of other stuff going on here, psychologically as well too.

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: You could hear a lot of other stuff going on. So even though he was smiling and showing look, a lot of resilience. On the other hand he was saying, what went through my mind is I'm going to die. And then my parents will be so sad because my life will have been over.

So there a lot of people in that plane who thought, this is it. I'm going to die. And that, that feeling and the panic at the moment, that's a trauma, that's a trauma for the mind. And so some of those people are going to go on to develop real symptoms of panic, of sleeplessness, of depression. And we don't know. We can't predict who it is.

But the people who were most hysterical, so to speak, or who maybe sort of seemed stuporous out of it, lost touch with reality, those are the people we would be most concerned about.

And in addition, anybody who has a past history of some sort of trauma, of depression or an addiction, by the way, is at higher risk for developing post traumatic stress disorder.

BROWN: Sanjay let me also ask you though, about the physical issues here because this is also a physical trauma in terms of the impact. The plane hitting the water alone would be pretty jarring to the body. I mean, what kind of injuries are we likely to see here?

GUPTA: That was the first thing that went through my mind. Exactly what you are alluding to, we've got a plane now from what I read going about 176 miles an hour when it hits the water.

If it had just stopped all of a sudden, you cause what's known as an acceleration/deceleration injury. You're accelerating and you suddenly decelerate, your whole body is traumatized as a result of that; blood vessels within the chest, your spinal cord, your brain rattling within the skull.

My guess is based on the fact that people seem to be have done so well from this, that the rate of deceleration must have been much slower than you would have expected. He may have been able to slow the plane down over a period of time and over a period of space, which cuts down on those sorts of injuries.

They also braced themselves. Campbell, you heard that the pilot said that. They planned on protecting themselves from exactly those types of injuries.

BROWN: All right, Sanjay. And Gail, let me just finally ask you. Is it possible that this could ultimately be a good experience for some of these people? A real positive experience, having come through this?

SALTZ: Absolutely. There are going to be some people, particularly people who helped, who behaved in a way they made sure other people got out, who are going to feel like heroes.

And basically collectively, they can feel like heroes. And it sort of restores your faith in mankind, if you will.

BROWN: It's really life-affirming.

SALTZ: Life-affirming and, by the way, it may switch their priorities in a very positive way. Like, have gratitude; appreciate every day in a way that you can't get any other way. So there could be some real positive effects. And I would add even that nationally, at a time when we are seeing a lot of systems not work, to see every system in this case work so unbelievably well, I think it has a reverberating effect, --

BROWN: Right.

SALTZ: That we can all feel like, wow, things can work and we can do unbelievably well.

BROWN: All right, that's a good note to end on. Gail Saltz and Sanjay Gupta, I appreciate it guys, thanks very much.

Just ahead, President Bush gives his final farewell address. How he summed up his eight years in office. Were there any surprises, any last-minute revelations? The highlights and the "Raw Politics" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Just a short time ago, President Bush giving his farewell address; the tradition dating back to George Washington. Mr. Bush has about 110 hours left in his presidency. His term ends Tuesday at noon.

In a recent poll, nearly three-quarters of Americans said that they are glad he is leaving.

So much for leaving them wanting more; in his final public speech tonight, President Bush took one more swing at summing up his presidency. It was "Raw Politics" straight up. Starting with a nod to the next President, here's some of the highlights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose history reflects the enduring promise of our land. This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation. And I join all Americans in offering best wishes to President-elect Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two beautiful girls.

This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house, September 11th, 2001. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorist movements. Freeze their finances and break up their plots.

Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored Al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets, to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school.

Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America, to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.

When challenges to our prosperity emerged, we rose to meet them. Facing the prospect of a financial collapse, we took decisive measures to safeguard our economy. These are very tough times for hard-working families. But the toll would be far worse if we had not acted. All Americans are in this together.

And together, with determination and hard work, we will restore our economy to the path of growth.

Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. And there are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I've always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right.

You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.

While our nation is safer than it was seven years ago, the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack. We must resist complacency. We must keep our resolve. And we must never let down our guard.

I have often spoken to you about good and evil. And this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world and between the two, there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right.

This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense and to advance the cause of peace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: A final farewell from the 43rd president. With "Raw Politics," the only question that really matters is, how did it play? Let's get our panel's take.

Joining me for a "Strategy Session:" CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser, David Gergen; also Candy Crowley; and Pamela Gentry, senior analyst for BET TV.

David, let me start with you. You heard President Bush tonight. What did you think of his last address to the nation?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was gracious toward Barack Obama. It had a certain humility to it. What's so striking, Campbell, in this speech, just as his interview with CNN with Larry King a couple of days ago, he sees reality through a very different lens than most Americans. To him, the central story of his presidency is that of the threat of terrorism coming in 9/11 and that he protected the homeland over these last seven years.

He deserves credit for that and that he's put us on a successful path to beat back terrorism both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most Americans will give him some of that, but I think they feel he's left us with two wars that we aren't necessarily winning, with a nation whose national debt has been doubled under his watch and with an economy that's been careening down, costing us lots and lots of jobs.

He acted as if he had risen up and smoked the enemy of financial collapse and he's really helped to overcome the economic problems. That's not what most Americans believe and it's certainly not what Barack Obama faces.

BROWN: But Candy, I want to pick up one point David was making. The issue of terrorism, obviously, which Bush wants to be his legacy, combating terrorism. As he went through what he had done on that front, was he kind of throwing down the gauntlet to President-elect Barack Obama?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think less that than trying to help rewrite history. I mean, this is a president who is trying to look at the long term. Who still believes that history will treat him more kindly than that first draft of history that's already been written.

I think it was a legacy shaper. I thought his most graceful points were when he spoke about Barack Obama. I think what we heard when he said we have to keep vigilant. Our number one priority should be staying safe. I saw that as less of a challenge as what he believes was the central point of his entire administration.

BROWN: Pamela, do you agree that that's what he wants to be remembered for? Protecting America from terrorism right after 9/11?

PAMELA GENTRY, BET POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think that may be very true. But I think what he really will be remembered for he says in his speech tonight, he sees things in black and white. There are no gray areas with this president. And so he wants to leave the same way he's done most of his administration; without compromise. He said, "I made decisions. They may have been wrong. I hope that you'll understand that I made them with the best intentions."

And he believes that he has done the right things. So he sort of left me with the impression, "I might not be right, but I'm never wrong."

BROWN: Right.

CROWLEY: What he did say in there, though, was the furthest I've heard him go, which was, "I would do things differently if I had a chance -- I would do some things differently if I had a chance to do it over." That's as far as I've seen him go.

BROWN: All right. Guys, stand by. We have a lot more with the panel coming up.

Is President-elect Obama's Cabinet confirmation drive hitting another roadblock? We're going to talk about today's Capitol Hill grilling.

And then later, more on the miracle on the Hudson; we're going to bring you a moment by moment account of exactly what happened.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: So my fellow Americans, for the final time, goodnight. May God bless this house and our next president. May God bless you and our wonderful country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Just hours before President Bush's farewell speech, the Senate voted to release the second half of the financial rescue package to President-elect Obama. The vote was close, 52-42.

It was Vice President-elect Joe Biden's last vote in the Senate. He formally resigned at 5 p.m. today. It may have been Hillary Clinton's last vote, too. She hasn't resigned yet but is expected to be confirmed shortly as secretary of state.

For newly minted Senator Roland Burris of Illinois, it was a first vote. He was sworn in today as Obama's successor.

Obama lobbied hard for today's victory. He was unable to sway many Republicans. They basically bailed on the rescue program in droves, including Senator John McCain.

But let's bring back our panel to talk about this: David Gergen, Candy Crowley, Pamela Gentry, for another strategy session.

And Pamela, let me start with you. The Senate vote today not to block releasing the remaining $350 billion. Not just an economic victory for President-elect Barack Obama but also a political victory, because he's not forced to start his presidency with a major veto. Right?

GENTRY: Well, that was really important for him, you know, to get off on a good start. But I think this is going to show how far he'll go in reaching out to members because he made a lot of personal phone calls. He made personal visits to the Hill. And he's letting the legislative branch know that they're not going to be left out and he's not going to take them for granted.

But I think he made those -- he extended those olive branches. And of course, it worked with his party. But there were a few Republicans who did come over and support it. So he got a victory on his first day.

BROWN: David, let me ask you about attorney general designee Eric Holder, who seems to be having, possibly, the toughest, or one of the toughest confirmation hearings of all of Barack Obama's Cabinet appointees. He was grilled on the Marc Rich pardon today. Let's play a little bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Were you aware, Mr. Holder, of the atrocious record that Rich had in dealing with the Iranians and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and arms in exchange for oil, the Moroccans? Were you aware of this kind of a record this man had?

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: No, I was not. And that was one of the mistakes that I made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Now, David, Republican senators say that they want more time to question him. Is this a nomination that could be in trouble?

GERGEN: I don't think so, Campbell. I think he'll have more negative votes than he would like, but he handled himself overall today very, very well. Senator Specter did draw some blood with those questions about the Marc Rich pardon.

But Holder, I think, acquitted himself extremely well in responding to it. He's got strong support from the Democrats. He does have a number of Republicans who have been at the Justice Department in the past in his corner.

But let me just come back and say one other thing. Today's victory -- this was a very significant personal victory today in the Senate for Barack Obama. Had this gone down -- and last night looked like it could go down in the Senate. He would have started out his presidency in a very weakened position.

The phone calls that he made were not just routine. He -- of the seven freshmen in the Democratic class, he got six of their votes. Had he lost them, he would have lost this vote.

Most of those people who went with him today campaigned against the bailout during the recent fall campaign. They got elected opposing it. He turned them around. That is a sign of someone who can get things done. It's a very helpful omen for him as he starts his presidency. It could have been a very different picture tonight had he not done that.

BROWN: Candy, go ahead. I know you want to jump in.

CROWLEY: I just want to kind of respectfully disagree, because David knows I love him. But the reality was that, had he gotten a bill on his desk that refused him access to those funds, he would have vetoed it. And he would not -- they would not have had the two-thirds vote to override him. And he would have gotten that money.

So here's the argument which he made, and I think which was the most effective when he made it in the Senate caucus. "OK, you guys, do you really want to pick a fight that's useless and get us all off on the wrong foot?" And in the end, they didn't want to -- this wasn't about, "OK, it really is a good idea to do this." This was about, "It is futile to hand him his first rejection. It will reflect badly on him and on us." BROWN: Pamela, let me ask you about another subject. Roland Burris, of course, sworn in as a U.S. senator today; are they, to a certain extent, breathing a sigh of relief, I guess, that this thing is not going to be in the headlines anymore?

GENTRY: Well, let's see if it's not in the headlines anymore. But yes, it's a sigh of relief. But I think the biggest relief is probably for the majority leader, Harry Reid. Because you know, he was -- he could have gotten blamed for really poor leadership if this thing had continued to drag on much longer.

I think that, you know, he was caught holding the ball. And I don't think he handled it well in the beginning. And I think probably getting this off the front pages now is a credit. I'm not sure who's going to take credit for making it happen. But I don't think Harry Reid handled it well, and I think he'll have to make sure that, in the future, that these kinds of leadership jobs get done.

BROWN: Candy, let me go back to you and Obama and kind of big picture this, if you will, and wrap it up for us. Because it seems like he has, especially the last week or so, really tried to lower expectations. You know, he says, "Hey, the economy's going to be bad for a while. And you know, we might not catch Osama bin Laden, but as long as we isolate him, that's OK."

What's the strategy behind this, in terms of preparing people for, you know, his swearing in and the transition?

CROWLEY: I think some of the talk about the economy, and honestly, he has been the grim reaper of the economy for three weeks. Now he started beginning to say, listen, this isn't -- this isn't going to happen instantly the minute he was elected.

But over the past couple of weeks, it has just been this dire, dire thing. Part of that was the sales job, to say to Congress, you need to give me this money. But part of it was trying to get some time from the American people, saying, "It is really bad. I am going to need some time to do this."

And I think with bin Laden, that's the other thing. He said during the campaign that he thought that bin Laden was an important symbolic and procedural al Qaeda member that we should go out and get. And now he's saying, "Well, if we can just sort of, you know, make it so that he's not effective, that's OK, too."

Again, I think that's kind of beginning to lower those "Here comes the politics of hope and here comes all of these great promises," because reality is going to, you know, hit the road on Wednesday. And there's a lot of things on his plate, and it won't take place overnight. And he needs the American people to know that.

It's also why we got a lot of talk about, "Listen, we're going to have this trillion dollar deficit, and it's not my fault."

BROWN: Right.

CROWLEY: So there has been a lot of that going on.

BROWN: And we've got to end it there. We're out of time. But Pamela Gentry, Candy Crowley and David Gergen, as always, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Up next, more on our breaking news: the miracle on the Hudson River. When did the pilot know something was wrong, and what exactly did he do?

Tom Foreman retraces the plane's path.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: U.S. Airways Flight 1549, resting momentarily in Lower Manhattan. CNN learning that recovery crews are waiting for favorable tides to move in and possibly haul it ashore.

As for where they'll put it, that is up to the NTSB and so far they're not talking. That's the very latest.

For more on how the airbus got there, and got there safely, here right now, Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, this had to be the shortest and most eventful flight in America today. And if you look at it, it even seems eventful.

Look at this: The plane takes off. It's climbing; everything seems fine. Then suddenly, there's this very dramatic turn that's headed back down the river where it will ultimately land.

But all along the way, there were all sorts of little steps happening. And I want to deconstruct those now to give you an idea of the sequence of events.

First of all, let's start with New York City. Here's where they landed over here. About seven miles away is where they started, LaGuardia Airport down on Runway No. 4. That is when this afternoon about 3:26, this plane was doing 170 miles an hour or so and it lifted off for what should have been an uneventful flight.

It climbed normally to begin with. But sometime between 3:26 and 3:30 p.m. -- a lot of different accounts of this -- that's when they encountered these birds or what was reported to be birds. They hit the plane. Many people say the left engine went silent, and then others say the right engine was silent, too.

But we do know what happened next, for sure. This light part over here shows where the plane was climbing. From this point, it was descending; this is only about 3,000 feet. It went this way, toward the west. And over here, the pilot was faced with a choice. He could try to go back to the airport, the original idea, or do something else. Here's the problem. Look below him. All sorts of people, millions of people living on the west side of Manhattan. He would have to cut back across them to get to the airport.

So instead, as he passed over this bridge here, he's now about 900 feet in the air, he decides to go for the river. And down he goes into the middle of the river. A good place, if there is such a good place for such a thing, only about a half mile from each shore.

And an important thing happened in this process. This particular plane is equipped with what's called a ditch switch. What that switch did was seal all the ports on the bottom side of the plane as it was going down. That's one of the reasons this plane did not sink like a stone and so many people survived; that and the proximity to shore.

One more thing to look at here. As we widen out, we talk about the idea of bird strikes. It would have been no wonder for such a thing to happen in this area. What we've lit up here is called the Atlantic Flyway. This is a region where many, many waterfowl fly back and forth; some from the Great Lakes region, coming into this area right here. Many pilots have seen them all the time.

Do they represent a threat? You bet they do; an average Canada goose, anywhere from seven to 20 pounds -- Campbell.

BROWN: Tom Foreman for us tonight.

As Tom mentioned, at least one bird reportedly struck Flight 1549. The accident could have been catastrophic for this crew and for all pilots. Bird strikes are a constant threat. They can also be a deadly one. Erica Hill has more on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: It is an eerie irony. One of the biggest threats to a plane is its inspiration: birds.

RONALD MERRITT, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Birds can take aircraft down and they have. This isn't the first time. You're never going to eliminate all birds from any airport environment. The key is to try to manage the risk.

HILL: Bird strikes, the official term used for collisions between aircraft and birds, are estimated to cause more than $600 million in damage every year, according to the FAA. They're most likely to occur during takeoff and landing and between the months of July and October.

Between 1990 and 2007, there were more than 82,000 reported, though the FAA says that's probably just 20 percent of the actual total. The biggest threat to an aircraft: a bird being sucked into a plane's engine.

MERRITT: Engines are particularly vulnerable in the fact that you can shut down the power source when you're looking at birds that are 8 to 12 pounds. There's really not a component that's going to withstand that type of impact.

HILL: The key, as Merritt mentioned, is managing the threat, one that has grown in recent years. There are more planes in the air and more birds, thanks to wildlife conservation efforts and environmental cleanup.

Airports around the globe use harassment techniques like dogs, fireworks, even falcons, to frighten the birds. Merritt's company is developing radar technology to help give pilots a warning. But as the pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 demonstrated, good training can also make the difference.

MERRITT: Typically, pilots have very little opportunity to avoid birds. It's really more a matter of training to deal with the in- flight emergency once that happens. And I think pilots of all air carriers and particularly military pilots, spend a great deal of time going through those checklists and simulators, practicing what happens when an engine is out.

HILL: Practice that today proved to be a life saver.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Now, for anyone who may be concerned about getting on a plane after seeing what happened today, I specifically asked Ron Merritt if we should be worried. And he said very quickly to me, no, definitely not. And don't worry if you see a bird outside of your window.

The fact is, Campbell, while the numbers are very high when we talk about bird strikes, the numbers of actual deaths or even real accidents that could cause a human to be harmed, thankfully, are low. A lot of times you don't even know about these things.

BROWN: Right. That's what we had heard one of the pilots say. It's interesting.

Erica Hill for us tonight.

Next on 360: new details on that fugitive pilot who tried to fake his death by jumping out of a plane. He's recovering in a hospital; his next stop, court. All the latest coming up.

And later, out of the air, into the water and alive; extraordinary images of today's plane accident.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: And we're following several other stories; Erica Hill joining us again with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Campbell, it is a brutally cold night in many parts of the country. Temperatures well below zero from the Dakotas to Western Great Lakes and in the teens farther east. By tomorrow morning that bitter cold will spread south. Even hitting the Gulf Coast states where temperatures are expected to be in the 20s. Another increase in job losses today; the labor department says 524,000 people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week. That is 25,000 more than expected.

And Marcus Schrenker, the financial manager, suspected of staging his own death in a plane crash, then leaving authorities on a three- day manhunt remains hospitalized after a suicide attempt. When he is feeling better, however, Schrenker will appear in court in Florida and in his home state of Indiana where he is facing various charges -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Erica. Thanks very much.

But we should also mention our beat "360" winners. It is our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture we post on our blog every day. Tonight's picture: Illinois new senator Roland Burris with his wife, Berlean, and Vice President Dick Cheney shortly after Burris took the oath as Barack Obama's successor in the U.S. Senate.

And our staff winner tonight is Brooke. Her caption: "Dick Cheney starts his new gig as a Senate tour guide." All right, way to go Brooke.

Our viewer winner is Wyatt, from Mill Valley, California. His caption: "Can I interest you in a deck to go with that chair?"

HILL: Very nice, very nice.

BROWN: You don't sound very enthused.

HILL: I'm sorry. You know what it is? I'm thinking of Mill Valley. I love Mill Valley, California and I was thinking, "I'd love to be in Mill Valley right now." Wyatt, I'm jealous.

BROWN: OK, focus. Wyatt, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Erica, for tonight's "Shot," on a wing and a prayer. U.S. Airways Flight 1549, the amazing story in pictures and words.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The engine blew about three minutes into the flight. Smoke came out everywhere. A couple of minutes later, the captain came on and said, "We're going to dump this plane. Brace for impact. And probably brace pretty hard."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he was going on, all of a sudden, the captain came on and said, "And brace for impact." And that's when we knew we were going down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once the captain said, "Prepare for impact," at that point, it was a hushed silence, heard a couple of cries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The luck of God, man. I don't know.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: What did you think? I mean, just listening to the people and their stories today, it was really unbelievable.

HILL: And amazing how composed some of them were, as well, especially after going through that.

BROWN: Unbelievable. What an incredible experience for all of these people.

That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts right now.

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