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AMERICAN MORNING

Plane Crash Survivor and Rescuer Tell Their Story; Bird Strikes A Possible Cause of U.S. Airways' Engine Failure; New Air Strikes Rattle Gaza while Both Sides Step Up Battle; Analysts Predict Bank Bailout Is Only A Drop In The Bucket As To Need

Aired January 16, 2009 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up at the top of the hour now, a US Airways jet that made that emergency landing in the water between New York City and New Jersey is now docked in lower Manhattan. These amazing pictures will certainly be hard to forget. Passengers in life jackets, they were literally sitting on the wings. New Yorkers gazing at a plane drifting in the icy water and all 155 men, women and a child survived the impact in the frigid water, thanks to a lightning fast emergency response that included commuter ferries, water taxis and one cool-headed pilot who maneuvered the jet over New York City, after it appears that birds took out those engines.
CHETRY: We have some breaking financial news this morning. Bank of America getting another $138 billion lifeline from the federal government.

The Charlotte-based bank reaching a deal with regulators that will help cover its takeover of Merrill Lynch. It will get $20 billion on top of the $25 billion that it already received from the bailout money. The government will also guaranty $118 billion in mostly mortgage- related losses.

New air strikes rattling Gaza overnight. Israel going after Hamas leadership and both sides stepping up the battle in heavily populated areas. The attacks follow the heaviest day of shelling reported yet in Gaza. Hamas says it's third-ranking leader died in an air strike yesterday.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, back now to our top story. Right now, a US Airways jet that plunged into the icy Hudson River is docked along the southern tip of New York City. All 155 passengers and crew survived the amazing emergency landing. One passenger said he heard an explosion and exactly 10 Hail Marys later, he was in the water, and very much alive.

Jason Carroll joins us live now from the west side of Manhattan with the very latest and just an incredible tale of drama and survival and just an amazing piece of flying by the captain of that aircraft.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, John. It's absolutely incredible. I've covered a lot of plane crashes and you know what it's like when you get that call. You really dread to see what you're going to end up seeing when you get out there. This time it was different. If you look behind me, you can see a portion of the plane sticking out of the Hudson River. At this point, the investigation in the hands of the NTSB.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): Some stood huddled on the wings of the plane. Others waited for rescue in life boats. This is what US Airways Flight 1549 looked like just moments after it crash landed in the Hudson River's icy waters.

JEFF KOLODJAY, PASSENGER: It was pretty scary, man. Like I thought he was going to circle back to LaGuardia because I've flown on LaGuardia a lot, and I knew you can come around this way and circle in in that runway over there and he goes just "brace for impact."

CARROLL: According to passengers, the flight took off without incident from LaGuardia Airport at 3:26 p.m. About three minutes later, while flying over New York City, an alarming noise, apparently from one of the Airbus 320's twin engines.

FRED BERRETTA, PASSENGER: I heard the left engine make a very loud noise. I was actually sitting in a position where I could see the engine.

CARROLL: The pilot, C.B. Sullenberger, radios air traffic control saying the US Air jet had just experienced a bird strike. He considers diverting to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey nearby, but he is out of time and heads towards the Hudson River.

VOICE OF UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: No one knew what 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, and she went into the water.

CARROLL: It was 3:31 p.m., about five minutes after takeoff. Passengers say few panicked. They calmly got out.

KOLODJAY: I'm not going to try and sound like a big guy. But, you know, it was my priority to make sure that the women and children got out first. So after that, we all did.

CARROLL: Commercial ferries aided emergency rescue boats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CARROLL: All those on board survived.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: This pilot did a wonderful job and it would appear that all roughly 155, including crew and one infant, got out safely.

CARROLL: The pilot credited for saving their lives and averting a disaster. A miracle to the survivors. BERRETTA: Thank you. Thank you, thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And, John, the mayor had a conversation with the pilot, who told him that we walked the aisle twice just to make sure that everyone got out all right. About a dozen passengers taken to hospitals with basically minor injuries, mild cases of hypothermia. Everyone again got out all right.

I just had an opportunity before we went on, John, to speak to one of the representatives from the NTSB who told me that today their priority, of course, is to interview the pilot, interview the crew, and recover the cockpit voice recorder as well as the data flight recorder. One of the first things I'm sure they're going to be saying to the pilot is, "job well done" -- John.

ROBERTS: Absolutely job well done. And it will be interesting to hear from the pilot himself. I imagine after he talks to investigators and the airline clears it, he'll be able to come out and tell us exactly what happened and what a tale that's going to be.

Jason Carroll for us this morning downtown. Jason, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well, the investigation into what went wrong is just beginning. Early indications, though, suggest a bird strike, as they call it or multiple bird strikes caused the crash. So just how much of a threat do birds pose to aircraft and what are the actual odds of a plane going down this way?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Initial reports, Mary, that both engines failed. A bird did that, Mary?

MARY SCHIAVO, AVIATION SAFETY EXPERT: Yes, and that's rare. There are about 60,000 bird strikes reported probably in the last 15 years. There are about 7,000 a year, but the instances in which they take out all the engines you can count on the fingers on your hands. It's extremely rare to get them all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: All right. Well, Alina Cho is here with that part of the story. And, you know, for people that are afraid of flying to begin with, and there are so many things you can't control, this is the last thing they need to hear.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It most certainly is, but I think a lot of people are asking the question, a bird, could it actually bring down a plane, Kiran, you know? Good morning, everybody.

Who would ever think that a bird could bring down a passenger jet? Probably the case here, though, it's too early to know an official cause. Sources tell CNN it was likely a bird or more than one bird that caused both engines to fail in this case. Now it's rare for both engines to go down but birds hitting planes, all too common.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (voice-over): It happens more often than you may think.

RONALD MERRITT, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Obviously, birds can take aircraft down and they have. This isn't the first time.

CHO: According to the FAA, birds collide with planes at least 8,000 times a year, costing the industry some $600 million. When it happens, it can be terrifying.

This video posted online shows a small plane taking a direct hit, and in this one, a jet flying through a flock. Both those planes landed safely, but sometimes the results are deadly. One group that studies bird strikes says over the past 20 years, 200 people have been killed and 200 aircrafts destroyed.

MERRITT: Engines are particularly vulnerable in the fact that you can shut down the power source. Particularly of interest is when you hit large birds and you hit more than one.

CHO: The FAA requires that engines be able to withstand the impact of a bird weighing four pounds, but 36 species of birds weigh more than four pounds. Experts say engines could be made more resistant, but they'd be heavier and inefficient, and that means more fuel and more money.

MERRITT: The key is to try to manage the risk in such a way that we reduce the probability of hitting large and large flocking birds.

CHO: But bigger planes mean bigger targets and in many cases, bird populations are growing, too, which means the pilot and flight crew is likely the best line of defense.

MERRITT: It's really more a matter of training to deal with the in-flight emergency once that happens.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Now you heard that expert talking about managing the risk. Well, if you think about it, there's really only so much you can do. We are talking about birds here. And at the end of the day, nobody can stop a flock from flying by an airport though they try very hard.

Now, what is clear is that it is common for a bird to hit a plane but deadly accidents are rare and two or more birds bringing down both engines, extremely rare. Now pilots are often trained to deal with a single engine failure but, Kiran, a double engine failure not so much because it so rarely happens.

And you know, New York's governor as you know has been calling this the miracle on the Hudson. There's a reason for that. I mean, so many things went right in this case.

Think about it. If this would have happened in the dead of night, in dark, cold waters with a less experienced pilot, the outcome may have been very different.

CHETRY: Yes. We're looking at live pictures right now where that boat is still tethered in Lower Manhattan as the NTSB gets ready to look into this.

CHO: Obviously a key piece of the investigation.

CHETRY: Yes. And again, it is remarkable, though. They do try techniques, right, Alina, to try to keep bird populations away from takeoff and landing but this is in the air.

CHO: They do. I mean, you know, border collies. I mean, the birds like to hang out in grass so they use dogs. They use cannons. They use pyro techniques, even model aircraft in some cases.

But birds are unpredictable. You really can't stop a flock of birds, and the bird population over the past several decades has grown exponentially, a thousand-fold in some cases. And so, it is more common than you think.

Now, experts will say, if you're flying, and you see a bird or two flying outside your window, no reason to be alarmed. But you know, this seems to be an extremely rare case.

CHETRY: Right.

CHO: And we're looking at what is an extreme close call. Thank goodness for this 29-year veteran who also happens to be a glider instructor, Kiran, so it's incredible and also a former Air Force fighter pilot. So really this guy knew what he was doing...

CHETRY: Exactly.

CHO: ... brought the plane down safely.

CHETRY: Alina, thanks so much.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: Now, a quick work as we've been talking about by crew members and also by the rescuers and it really minimized the number of passengers heard in the emergency landing of flight 1549. Some of the 155 passengers ended up in the frigid water of the Hudson River on one of the coldest days of the year. The first medical responders were worried though about a lot more than that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BAYER, JERSEY CITY MEDICAL CENTER: Our biggest concern was not really physical injuries, but quickly ascertained that a lot of people were really shaken up emotionally, obviously, and that was my job, you know. We just kept everyone in the corner and talked to anyone who really appeared to need help. You know, just to talk to someone. So at that point, that was our biggest, my biggest concern for the patients.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: I want to talk more about the emotional and physical trauma of that emergency landing. We're paging Dr. Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent in Atlanta this morning.

Good morning, Sanjay. Good to see you.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

CHETRY: So, first of all, the first thing you think about is boy, how cold it was yesterday and being exposed to those frigid waters, hypothermia, one of the biggest concerns for these passengers.

GUPTA: No question about it. And it can set in right away, with water that's this cold. What we're hearing as far as updated numbers is that 78 people were, you know, triaged at the scene or subsequently treated. Twenty-four people went to the hospitals and a few, only a few still remain this morning. So you can see just how good news that is.

But that hypothermia can be a real problem and within about 15 to 30 minutes, you can have some of the most severe effects of hypothermia.

Really quick when you talk about somebody in water versus on land, when you're in water it completely seeps the heat out of your body into the surrounding water so you can lose your body temperature very quickly, much more so than on land. So even in water that's much warm, even sort of high 60s, you can become quite hypothermic.

I want to show you what happens here specifically. Take a look at this animation.

The triage starts to take place in the body. You have the heart and the brain, that's where the blood is going to remain. All the rest of the body may get a lot colder, turns blue and it starts to drop in temperature. But if you sort of spin into the molecular level, to try and get an idea of what's happening at the cellular level, you go in there and then take a look at one of the blood vessels.

You see the red blood cells going through here. You get colder and colder. It starts to get sluggish and eventually comes to a stop. And that's what can happen in some of the most profound effects of hypothermia. Again, nobody seems to have had that, Kiran, just mild, if anything, and you know, very good news overall.

CHETRY: It's amazing just how quickly they were able to be brought out of the water. Also, you know, the physical trauma aside, we clearly saw miraculously that they survived that. What about the emotional toll that going through this brings to people?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, it's interesting. You heard some of the first responders talking a lot about that.

You know, fear of flying is one of the greatest fears that people have. So for a lot of people both on the plane and also for people that were watching, this was one of their worst nightmares sort of realized in some ways. So, you know, there's going to be some ways of predicting to some extent who is going to have the most profound effects of post traumatic stress in the future and people who won't.

I think it's interesting on your show, listening to people sort of as they evolve from yesterday in describing what happened to how they're describing it today. They're starting to recognize just how close they came to having a really bad outcome.

One thing I found interesting, we were talking to a lot of psychologists yesterday about this, Kiran, is that people who seem to be dealing with it worst at the time are, as you might expect, the people who are going to have the hardest time in the future as well. Whereas people who sort of are doing OK, the sort of old adage that they're going to have to deal with it later, not necessarily so, as long as they can get back on a plane or get back to their regular lives.

CHETRY: Yes. And some of them we talked to today arguing just that. They're getting back on a plane because they got to get back to Charlotte. So, wow. Just amazing.

Sanjay, great to see you. Thanks.

GUPTA: Same (ph). Thanks, Kiran.

ROBERTS: We've got more on this amazing story of survival just ahead. A first responder who may have saved some people from freezing to death. That person joins us live.

And some passengers couldn't wait to complete their journey home, even if it meant arriving in Red Cross blankets and wearing the same clothes that they had worn in the frigid Hudson River. So what was that like?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well out of the air and into the water, the plane that made an incredible emergency landing in the Hudson River was only in the sky for about three minutes when the engines apparently blew out. We're learning more about that today, but one of our next guests says it really felt like an eternity.

Joining us is crash survivor Fred Berretta and also a first responder from the U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer Von Rankin. Thanks to both of you for being with us this morning.

Fred, you're from Charlotte. You were on your way home yesterday. You were in this plane when this happened. You say that you actually felt a jolt and you saw the engine on fire. What was going through your head at the time?

FRED BERRETTA, CRASH SURVIVOR: Well, it made a loud noise and looked out, saw the smoke and the flames coming out of the rear of the engine and knew that it was pretty much a dead engine at that point, and was hoping that the right engine was working.

CHETRY: And when did you guys quickly become aware that that was not the case as well, that, in fact, you guys have lost both engines on this plane?

BERRETTA: We were talking to the passengers on the right side of the plane and we're asking them, hey, what's going on? You know, is that engine working and unfortunately we got a bad response. They said, "no" and at that point you could pretty much feel that we were just kind of gliding.

CHETRY: And what was the mood like in the plane, I mean, knowing that, OK, both engines are out? You guys are going to have to make some sort of landing at this point and really it's out of your hands.

BERRETTA: Well, it was actually just very somber, sullen, and people were quiet, not a lot of panic, not a lot of screaming. Everyone was just stunned and kind of waiting for the pilot to tell us what was going to happen next. And he came on and said "prepare for impact" and at that point, pretty much knew that we were going into the water.

CHETRY: OK. Tell us a little bit about when the plane actually came in, you realized you were going to try to go down in the Hudson and you were needing to prepare for being in the water.

BERRETTA: Well, when we hit the water, it was a pretty big jolt, and don't have much of a recollection of that. It just was kind of jostling around and was just glad the plane was intact. And at that point, OK, we're through phase one of this. Let's just get out of this airplane and go on to the next phase and hopefully we'll, you know, we'll make it from there.

CHETRY: Von, I want to you talk a little bit about what that initial call was like. Did you guys know what you were dealing with that for the most part a lot of survivors that needed to be plucked out of the water?

VON RANKIN, FIRST RESPONDER, U.S. COAST GUARD: Well, the initial call we got was just a plane, a reported plane in the water. So I didn't know the intensity of how many people were in the water until I was about two minutes away from the crash. Once on scene, we saw the FDNY and NYPD boats and the ferries, a lot of debris in the water and just said to my crew, we had to prepare to get the people out of the water safe and as fast as possible.

CHETRY: And that's the other amazing part, Fred, is how -- first of all how quickly they were able to do that. But you guys seemed so orderly. I mean, what was it like as you were -- the plane is filling up with water. People are making decisions as to where they're going to go. One woman had a baby. How did it appear so orderly?

BERRETTA: It went I think as smoothly as it could. I don't know how to describe it. Everything just worked out really well. The passengers were as orderly as I think you can be in that situation. They were helping each other. They weren't just looking out for themselves, and people were helping folks get out on the wing or get on the raft. It went very, very quickly, and everyone was off the plane and the emergency response was tremendous between the pilots and the crew and the emergency response. That's, you know, the grace of God. That's what I saved us.

CHETRY: And, Von, what's the one thing that sticks out in your mind about that rescue, about how everything happened and you guys lost no one. Everyone survived this.

RANKIN: I just feel glad to be a part of that, and just happy that it turned out the way it did. Great teamwork with all the agencies, and pretty proud of my crew, pulled it together. And my training and experience kicked in, and everything went well.

CHETRY: I think a lot of pride, a lot of credit goes around both to the rescuers and the passengers to the pilot. Really, it's been described as a miracle on the Hudson. I think that's really the best way to put it.

Thanks to both of you for being with us. Fred Berretta surviving that and Petty Officer Von Rankin with the U.S. Coast Guard rescuing passengers yesterday, thanks so much -- John.

ROBERTS: Surviving a plane crash, what you need to know to stay in control and stay alive before you get on another plane.

And voters say it was issue number one. So how can Barack Obama face the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression? Our expert team offers some advice and some warnings.

It's 21 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Twenty-four minutes after the hour now. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

We want to take a minute here to walk you through what happened with flight 1549 yesterday. That yellow line is tracing the flight path from LaGuardia Airport down to touchdown there, the crash landing in the middle of the Hudson River. Let's zoom in here.

The flight was taking off from runway four at LaGuardia, which we zoom in a little bit more here, you can see it right there. Runway four, which stands for four degrees, it's almost due north here. So the pilot, you know, takes off down the runway here, it was a normal rotation out, about 170 miles an hour, climbing normally to about a height of 1,800 feet, executes a slight left turn here heading toward Charlotte. When about this area here, 2,800 to 3,200 feet, runs into what we believe was a flock of birds.

At least one bird was ingested, we understand, into the left engine. It looked like the right engine got hit as well. So what happened then was the pilot continues along this flight path, radios in to LaGuardia, saying I've got an emergency situation, executes a sharp left-hand turn here, now flying at about 2,000 feet.

Off to the right-hand side in New Jersey, he can see Teterboro Airport, which is just off of your screen. That's a small municipal airport, handles mostly corporate jets and other private general aviation, but decides no, probably can't make Teterboro at this point.

See the George Washington Bridge here down on the right. So he says I'm going to go for the river. Continues to descend at this point, we understand from talking with passengers, he doesn't have any power so ostensibly and essentially this plane has become a glider. And it's a good thing that Sullenberger, the captain of the aircraft, had some glider training. In fact, he was an instructor. Now flying without power at about skyscraper top level here, before he finally puts the plane down in the Hudson River.

So from takeoff at 3:26 to touchdown here on the Hudson River, only about five or six minutes go by. So you can imagine how busy he must have been trying to figure out what he was going to do to try to put this aircraft down. And miraculously, because we've seen pictures of that Ethiopian Airways 767 that came in with no power, it tore itself apart because the wing dipped first. He brought it in perfectly along. The belly stalled the plane out and then put it down without too much stress on those engines, kept the plane intact, everybody was able to get out.

To say it's a miracle on the Hudson is probably an understatement, Kiran. Really, it was an amazing piece of flight.

CHETRY: Absolutely. All right.

Well, US Airways Flight 1549 actually never made it, as we know now, to Charlotte, North Carolina. But some of the survivors have now arrived at their final destination. Some of them were in the same wet clothes they had on in the frigid Hudson when they landed.

T.J. Holmes caught up with them. He is live in Charlotte this morning. A lot of them had to get back on planes and go home, which is where they wanted to be in the first place.

Hey, T.J.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, home they couldn't help it. They wanted to be home and I know you all were talking to some this morning about how do you survive a plane crash. Well, if you ask these folks, the best way to survive it is to have a guy named "Sully" flying your plane.

Everyone here was singing the praises of Captain Sullenberger and the job he did. Everyone talking about he literally saved their lives.

Now, of course, these folks have just been in a plane crash. The last plane they were on crashed into the Hudson. So literally, hours later, they turn around and get on another plane.

Don't know if you or I could have done that, Kiran, but that's what they did and this one landed where it was supposed to. It landed back here home in Charlotte.

Now, we were waiting here at the airport, had word that many of the survivors were going to be coming back home here to Charlotte. We were waiting around at the airport, like, how do you identify a plane crash survivor? You know, what are they going to look like? Are they going to look like they've been in a plane crash?

You know, most of us when we do fly, Kiran, we don't look our best. We all look kind of a mess, but they came through wearing their Red Cross blankets as a badge of honor almost, saying I survived the miracle on the Hudson and they had their stories to tell. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were hitting that Hudson River with full impact, you know, and boom! And then we stopped, and then we looked out. And they said, you know, like brace and so forth, but we all wanted to see what was going to happen, whether we were going to die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably the most amazing moment in my life. Honestly, there was a lady and a child, and she was trying to climb over the seats because everybody was like, wrecks. I mean, you know, for the most part everybody was well behaved and everybody was so organized. But she got blocked off and I grabbed her and her child, and walked them to the exit and from there, Josh, I believe, got them onto the raft, but I'll never get over it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we got outside in the cold water, and I mean the water was cold. Within seconds my legs were numb standing in the water. So I'm guessing it was, you know, 30, 40 degrees. It was ugly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire and rescue up in New York, if you're going to go down in an incident, you want to be in New York, I promise you. Those people took care of us. The ferryboat drivers, the fire and rescue, they were on top of it, took us out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This pilot, and if this guy doesn't get the recognition he needs...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... is the reason my daughter, my two and a half-year-old has a dad, and my wife still has a husband.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: So certainly and understandably emotional, Kiran, and just a full disclosure here to let you know, they were also upbeat and quite cheerful last night, because the plane back, they quite literally turned it into a party plane. They were all drinking and enjoying their time back. By the time we got them here, they were feeling a little good, after all that truth serum on the way down here to Charlotte. But they wanted to celebrate the fact that quite frankly they're alive today. CHETRY: Yes. How about that? They were ready to talk and quite poetic. They really told a very, very interesting story.

HOLMES: Yes.

CHETRY: And as one of them aptly put it, never forget it, for the rest of their life, so amazing. Good thing that you were able to talk to them, T.J., and that we were all able to hear their stories. Thanks so much for joining us.

HOLMES: Sure thing.

CHETRY: It's 30 minutes after the hour.

ROBERTS: Survival school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We get ready for impact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brace. Everybody brace. Brace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: How to stay safe when a plane goes down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a time factor. You have to be able to exit an aircraft within 90 seconds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: What everyone who flies needs to know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten seconds. Ten seconds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Ahead on the Most News in the Morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well seconds count certainly in the aftermath of a crash. What would you do? And would you know what you were supposed to do? Many airline passengers don't even pay attention to the safety announcements before a flight takes off. Our Deborah Feyerick looked into what it would be like to be involved in a plane emergency.

Scary.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really scary. You know, Kiran, no matter how often I fly, I always look at the safety card before takeoff. I check under my seat to make sure there's a life vest. I even count the rows to see if the closest exit is in front or behind me. These are small things but they can make a really big difference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The captain just informed me that we have an engine fire on this side of the aircraft. We're going to return back to the field and land and evacuate through the main cabin door, once we've come to a complete stop.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Everyone is quiet as the flight attendant tells us what's happening and what we need to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put your seat belts on nice and tight, very snug against your hips.

BLAIN STANLEY, EVACUATION EXPERT: Pandemonium and chaos and mayhem is not the norm, per se. People look for direction. They get quiet, they look at the crew members, and they want to be led.

FEYERICK: The pilot keeps talking to the flight attendant. The flight attendant keeps talking to us. Evacuation expert Blaine Stanley, who is running the drill, says communication is critical.

STANLEY: Without the communication, nobody has a plan to follow. You all need to be reading off the exact same sheet of music in order to be able to be successful in evacuating.

FEYERICK: Tracy Gross, our flight attendant, shows me how to open the emergency exit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you repeat that back to me?

FEYERICK (on camera): I remove the cushions. I take the panel off and then I pull the handle, and do leg, body, leg.

(voice-over): It's important all that be kept away tightly.

STANLEY: That laptop bag weighing in at eight, 10, 12 pounds, in a crash, where you're pulling nine, 10, 12, 14 Gs, turns into a gigantic catapult that will take your head off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You two, all the way over, grab your arms and the back side of your legs. Do it quick.

FEYERICK: We get ready for impact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Everybody, brace! Brace! Hold tight!

FEYERICK: The next drill deals with smoke. That, and fire are the two things many pilots and crew members fear most.

STANLEY: Most people who are alive when the airplane comes to a stop but end up dead, die because of smoke inhalation. They are consumed by the smoke and fire because the evacuation does not proceed rapidly enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does everyone see this exit?

FEYERICK: It's important to know exactly where the closest exit is. The smoke is blinding. On commercial planes equipped with emergency chutes you can't just sit and slide. You have to run and jump, says flight attendant Denise Goubin.

DENISE GOUBIN, FLIGHT ATTENDANT: It's a time factor. You have to be able to exit an aircraft within 90 seconds.

FEYERICK: With a water landing, it's important not to inflate your vest until after you're out of the aircraft.

STANLEY: Once you get that vest on and you inflate it fully, it blows up to about twice your normal body size up front. Now as you move toward the exit, if the exit is too small, you can't fit through.

FEYERICK: As for us, on our smoky plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten seconds. Ten seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold tight.

FEYERICK: As our plane crashes, we climb out the window, hearts racing, even though it's just a drill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: And this is just a simulation that we did a little while back but your adrenalin really kicks in. Your one thought, get out as fast as you can. Look for any opening. It may not be a door. It may be a gash in the side of a plane. On the US Airways flight, a lady with a baby was actually crawling over the seats. In some cases you may have to hand your child to a stranger outside the plane. It's all about moving fast, staying calm. And, again, communicating is just critical. Because a lot of times, as you heard, it's the smoke that gets you. So you've got to be thinking.

CHETRY: You are going to -- you've inspired me to pay more attention, and to double check under my seat to make sure I have my flotation advice. You're right. A lot of times you tune it out.

FEYERICK: And do you know, once I was on a plane and I checked and there was no flotation advice. And I said something to the stewardess, to the flight attendant. But it is one of those things, at least I rather know I don't have it. I can figure something else out.

CHETRY: Exactly. Good stuff, Deb, thanks so much.

FEYERICK: Of course.

ROBERTS: Barack Obama called it the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and it's about to be his problem. Does he have the answers to fix it? We're asking the experts. We'll hear from them coming up soon. It is 36 and a half minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's 39 minutes after the hour. All this week we've been looking at Barack Obama's top five challenges, as he takes office. This morning a look at the number one challenge, the economy. We have been calling it "Issue #1" here for months.

Joining us to talk more about that, Ali Velshi CNN's chief business correspondent and author of his nearly released book, "Gimme My Money Back!"

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: I want my money back, too.

ROBERTS: How's that for a shameless plug? Along with CNN's own Christine Romans and "Financial Times" U.S. Managing Editor Chrystia Freeland.

Good to see you all.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, U.S. MANAGING EDITOR, "FINANCIAL TIMES": Hi, John.

ROBERTS: So it looks like the incoming president is going to get the second $350 billion from the original rescue plan. How is this going to be different from the last time and will this $350 billion disappear into thin air like the first one did?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's going to be different in that the first one, we really can't get full accounting on what happened to it in the first place. CNN continues to call the banks, and the Treasury and the Fed. They won't really tell us. I think you're going to see more accounting and more strings attached to a little bit more direct spending of that money in a way that will help businesses and small business.

But as we heard from the Treasury, the other day, they're still resisting telling us exactly how best that money can be spent.

ROMANS: We know that Bank of America is already lined up for $20 billion more. We know that Citi has had, two times now it has gone to the till to get more some money from the U.S. government. I think what we're hearing from our sources there will be more capitalization of the banks, more money going out to the banks. Americans don't like it, but that's the way it is.

VELSHI: Chrystia thinks it's a lot more.

FREELAND: I think that's the story of the week. And I think what is going to be incredibly difficult for Obama is the $350 billion, now the $850 billion stimulus, it's just not going to be enough.

ROBERTS: Really?

FREELAND: Citi and Bank of America, in particular, are going to need monster recapitalization.

ROMANS: Right.

VELSHI: Chrystia is using the "T" word, for those banks. The "trillion" word.

ROBERTS: So, you are talking about, I guess it is $825 billion, this new stimulus package he wants to put in, $550 billion in spending, $275 billion in tax cuts. You don't think that money is going in the right direction?

FREELAND: No, I think that you will need, in addition, a huge program to recapitalize the American banking system. And I think that's going to be politically incredibly difficult, because the American people feel quite rightly as if they have already spent with this new release $750 billion on the banking industry.

ROBERTS: So, America is trying to spend its way to prosperity, some people have said. But can the federal government really have that much of an effect on the economy?

ROMANS: The federal government needs that U.S. Airways pilot, right about now. And so does the banking system, quite frankly.

VELSHI: That's right.

ROMANS: Because there isn't that, I don't know, knight in shining armor quite yet.

I want to be really clear here, John, that what we're hearing from Wall Street and from the banks -- I mean, the banks are again, in very bad shape right now.

ROBERTS: But let's look at this from a 30,000-foot level, can the federal government really affect the economy to any great deal?

VELSHI: They can encourage -- the federal government can't get the economy going. The federal government can encourage business to get the economy going and this country, more than any other, depends on consumer spending. What that means is consumers wanting to buy things as opposed to government programs that spend money.

Now, we can't do that because people don't trust the system. So Barack Obama's got this fine line he has to work, convincing consumers and investors that they will protect and better regulate business, while convincing business that those regulations are not going to be so onerous that they're actually going to slow down the ability to do business. That's walking a fine line.

ROBERTS: Do we fundamentally need to change as a society? We were talking about this. Instead of we need to save for two years to buy a big screen TV as opposed to buying two of them and not paying for a year?

ROMANS: We went too far in one direction. We didn't save anything. We had negative savings. That went too far. But you don't want us to be like China or some of these other countries, that we save too much, and so we're not investing in our economy internally. There is a balance in there. We've been completely unbalanced.

FREELAND: I think the problem is going to be the short term versus the long-term. In the long-term, definitely America as a society, Americans as householders, need to save more and spend less. They've been consuming more than they've been producing for the past decade and that can't continue. The difficulty is this, you know, what Keynes called the paradox of thrift. If everyone stops spending at the same time, you have a depression, which doesn't help anybody at all.

ROMANS: I think if you want to save your money and live within your means, and you want your neighbors to spend a little money.

FREELAND: To go out and spend -- at your shop!

ROMANS: That's what you want.

ROBERTS: For the last six, seven years, maybe eight years, if you include Afghanistan, we have been spending so much money on wars, while at the same time China has been investing in a 21st century economy.

VELSHI: Right.

ROBERTS: Tom Friedman from "The New York Times" wrote a couple of weeks ago, we need to reboot America. He flew from Hong Kong to JFK and said it was like flying from the First World to the Third World. Does America need to reinvest in itself?

VELSHI: One of the things Barack Obama talked about, really, before that depth of the crisis was that credit, easy credit has really been the stimulus for this economy for the last 15 or 20 years. And he feels the next 15 or 20 will be motivated by alternative energy. Now I'm not sure whether that's entirely been lost in the new discussion of stimulus, but it still was a focus of his and it was what his belief was about the future. That could be it. Infrastructure, but specifically, with changing the way we consume and produce energy.

ROMANS: Presidents get too much credit and too much blame for the economy. They really do. What they can do is they can spearhead policies, and directions that Congress and then private sector take. The private sector creates -- well, government's creating jobs now. But the private sector in a healthy economy is the one creating jobs. That's what Barack Obama has to do. He has to figure out how to get organic growth in the private sector, not just using our money to create jobs.

ROBERTS: Can he save this economy from tipping into either a long-lasting recession or even a depression?

FREELAND: I think the really terrible thing for him and his economic team is they don't know yet for sure. And what is really, really tricky is the answers are very technical. I think they would have hoped that by this point, the financial part of the crisis would have been over, and they could focus on the real economy, on stimulating consumer spending and so on. The bad news from this week is the financial part of the crisis doesn't seem like it's over yet.

ROBERTS: Tough issues ahead. Thanks all for the expertise. Good to see you this morning -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Still ahead, a pilot who saw it all from his apartment overlooking the Hudson River. He knows how it feels to be in a cockpit. And he's going to describe what he saw, coming up in about 45 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: A plane that made that incredible emergency landing in the Hudson River was only in the sky for a few minutes, when the engines apparently blew. There's an eyewitness who saw the drama unfold. He is our next guest. Jerry Wallis, a private pilot, and so he has some experience in the cockpit.

So watching the plane go down for you, Jerry, must have been particularly harrowing. What did you see out of your apartment?

JERRY WALLIS, PILOT, EYEWITNESS TO PLANE CRASH: It was a remarkable sight. It unfolded very quickly. When I first noticed the plane it was about 50 feet above the water. I noticed it was definitely coming down. And I also noticed it was under perfect control, the angle of the plane going in was like it was landing at a regular runway. And the speed was probably as low as you could get without actually stalling the aircraft. So the pilot did a remarkable job of bringing it in under control, and putting it on to the water with one single splash.

At that point I started making my 911 call, and then subsequently started taking some pictures.

CHETRY: We're looking, right now, at some live video. This is where the plane is tethered as the NTSB gets ready to investigate exactly what happened.

When they started talking about the possibility that it was a bird strike, as they put it, where one bird or numerous birds get sucked into the engines, that's for the average person, you think, how can a bird take down a plane?

WALLIS: Actually when I was first learning how to fly, quite some years ago I was in a Cessna 150 and I struck a bird. It was amazing. It was a relatively small bird, but the impact was so strong. The instructor I was flying with at that point in time immediately put the nose down so we could regain air speed. But it was remarkable, the force of the impact when it occurred.

CHETRY: The other thing that seemed remarkable is how orderly everything seemed to have gone. First of all, taking for granted this pilot knew exactly the right thing to do, was able to glide that plane with no engines. And then after that, you have this evacuation of a packed plane, 155 people, including a baby.

WALLIS: Absolutely. I've been on -- well, I fly in my career constantly, as a passenger. I've been on that type of airplane before and getting off that fast and watching the people come off that fast through my binoculars, and coming off and helping each other. It was amazing how fast they did get off the aircraft. The doors were open almost immediately and people were orderly coming out.

CHETRY: You factor in the second half of what they call the miracle on the Hudson, how quickly these boats, commuter boats, fire, Coast Guard, getting there and getting people off and knowing exactly where to go. And at some point we were hearing that some of these boats were buffering or buoying, if you will, the plane. Keeping it above water

WALLIS: As I watched it, most of the people had cued out on to the wings and they were in the rafts. And then the first water taxi made an immediate right and approached the airplane carefully, because it looked like there might have been a couple people in the water. And then, almost immediately, from converging from all different directions came several other water taxis, and then the authorities came over in the helicopter, and started coming in very quickly. The whole thing just happened so very quickly, it was remarkable to see it happen.

CHETRY: We see this, most of us don't experience seeing things like this very often in our lifetime. How easily could it have gone wrong, all of these things?

WALLIS: Oh, my gosh, something like this is a combination of skill, training. I think the success of it was because of those factors that people not panicking, the fact that it was daylight. I mean, I look out the window constantly and I've seen it out there in the black of night and it would have been dreadful if this would have happened, you know, in the dark.

CHETRY: Absolutely. And the water temperatures being the way they were and the air temperatures as well.

Jerry Wallis witnessing that plane crash from his apartment window in New York. Thanks for joining us this morning.

WALLIS: Thank you.

CHETRY: Right now it's 49 minutes after the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS (voice-over): How could a bird take down a plane? Innocent one second, deadly the next. Birds, planes, disaster.

Plus, save me. Divers who risked rising ice water to search the inside of the downed plane. What they saw, who they rescued. They're here to tell the story. You're watching the most news in the morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: President Bush in prime time for the last time surrounded by an audience of supporters in the East Room of the White House. Mr. Bush delivered his farewell address putting a final spin on his two terms in office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Like all who have held this office before me, I've 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: David Frum is a former Bush speechwriter. He's also a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. David joins us now live from Washington to talk more about the president's farewell.

David, it's good to see you.

DAVID FRUM, FMR. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Good to see you.

ROBERTS: So, the president last night said he had some setbacks, but that he always acted in the best interests of the country. Some people, though, might take a look at that statement and say, well, was his vision of what is best for the country really accurate?

FRUM: He is going to -- I mean, he's a very controversial president and he's probably going to remain a controversial president.

I think the way the judgment of history is going come in, it's going to depend on a lot of future events, in Iraq, for example. You know, my father-in-law fought in South Korea and for a decade after the Korean war, South Korea remained a poor country. It didn't become a democracy for almost 30 years, actually, more than 30 years after the end of the Korean war. But we look back on it now and say the United States and its allies did something important in South Korea. They stabilized Northeast Asia, built a really thriving democracy. Let's see how Iraq looks in 10 or 15 years. If it looks awful, then this is going to look like a very bad decision. If it looks good. If it looks like it's on its way to a South Korea outcome, then I think a lot of people will say that it was a tough call, but it was the right call.

ROBERTS: Do you think that Iraq is going to be the main point of his legacy?

FRUM: I think there are going to be -- I think it is going to reduce itself to two. Iraq will be a huge component, and then the second big component will be this economic crisis the country is now going through.

Again, if we look back on it, and it looks like more or less normal recession, tough, but normal like '82, or '74, or 1958, then I think people will -- the story will -- the president will not -- there will not be a lot of questions about his economic management. But if it turns into something really nasty, then I think, again, there will be a lot of questions.

One of the things that I think all of this means is the judgment on the president is now out of the president's hands. And these speeches and these farewells, it depends now on facts, on events, on memory.

ROBERTS: So as you said, there is the economy. There is the Iraq war. There were things that the president did which were undoubtedly good things, such as his work on AIDS in Africa, anti- malaria programs. Will those ever get recognized? Will they get noticed?

FRUM: Look, there are a lot of good things. I want to draw attention to one that gets enormously overlooked which is the incredible improvement in relations with Latin America, that has happened under George Bush. When George Bush came to office we were worried about a guerrilla insurgency, a drug cartel taking over Colombia. That insurgency has been largely defeated, by the Colombians, but with great American assistance in what was once a very controversial idea, Plan Colombia and widely rejected in Congress.

Look at how the United States avoided getting into the situation with Venezuela that it got into with Castro back in the '60s. Chavez needed an enemy. George Bush made sure he didn't have one. Look at our relationship with Mexico, which is again having now democratic transitions of power. This is the Mexicans. It's to their credit but the United States has helped and, more important, not gotten in the way.

ROBERTS: So President Bush is riding off into the sunset but there will be a lot of Republicans left in Washington. You wrote a recent article about the duty of Republicans and you say, quote, "Republicans can do themselves and the country a favor by seeing if it's possible to work cooperatively." You're urging them to cooperate with the incoming president unlike what Republicans did in the early 1990s when Bill Clinton became president.

FRUM: Yes, up to a point. The point of this article, which is published in "The Week" (ph), is going to take a lot of judgment. This is not 1993. Bill Clinton slipped into office in '93 with 42 percent of the vote because the Republicans split. There was Republican majority in the country. This is different. This president has a real mandate. So it's dangerous to be mindlessly oppositionists and say we're going to fight you at every turn.

On the other hand, if he turns to the left. If he tries to shackle all kinds of regulations and re-unionize the American economy, then Republicans have a principled reason to fight. But wait, you should look for opportunities to cooperate, if you can, under the circumstances of today which are special and different from those of the past.

ROBERTS: David Frum, it's always good to catch up with you. Thanks for coming in. We'll see you in Washington next week.

FRUM: Thank you.