To stand inside the cabin of the US Airways jet that crash landed on the Hudson River is to imagine, even briefly, some of the terror that must have overtaken the 155 people aboard as the plane descended onto the icy water.
The plane's interior is largely undisturbed from the Jan. 15, 2009, landing but is littered with reminders and a coating of dried mud. A stethoscope from a first-aid kit lies on the floor in one row, while unused life jackets still wrapped in plastic sit on seats. Many seat cushions are gone, grabbed by passengers as they exited onto a wing. In the rear galley, food and beverages are waiting to be served.
The world will be able to relive the triumph of what has been dubbed "The Miracle on the Hudson" when the Airbus A320 is shipped this spring from a northern New Jersey warehouse to Charlotte, N.C., for an exhibit at the Carolinas Aviation Museum.
The plane's wings are expected to be moved within the next few weeks. The 120-foot fuselage will be trucked down around mid-June, said Stephen Ryan, whose Australia-based company FRD is consulting on the museum project.
That trip is sure to create a stir between New Jersey and North Carolina, much as it did when the plane was moved from the Hudson to the warehouse two years ago.
"We're still working out the route," Ryan said Saturday. "There are a lot of factors to be considered."
The museum exhibit is scheduled to open next January and will focus on the technology that helped the plane land safely as well as the heroics of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who became an instant national hero. The most compelling moments likely will come from taped interviews with the passengers.
Museum president Shawn Dorsch told The Associated Press in January that the 19-year-old museum attracts about 30,000 visitors annually, but could see that number swell to more than 100,000 once the famous jet is put on display.
Flight 1549 had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport when a flock of birds struck both engines, shutting them down. Sullenberger considered trying to land at nearby Teterboro Airport but quickly calculated that he wouldn't be able to make it that far. The Hudson was the only alternative.
The starkest visual evidence of the splashdown is in the very back of the plane, which was torn off by the impact and has a gaping hole that exposes the rear cargo hold. The rest of the fuselage is remarkably well preserved except for a defect on the right rear side. Two cracked windshields and other dents were caused by rescue tugboats or during the plane's removal from the water, Ryan said.
While the world watched passengers being rescued from the wings of the plane, the back of the cabin was rapidly filling with water and muck. That left a layer of mold that must be cleaned before the plane can be shipped to Charlotte.
Once there, it will be preserved as close to its current condition as possible. That means visitors probably won't be able to walk inside the cabin because the floor has degraded and wouldn't be able to withstand heavy traffic, Ryan said. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Previous post in Around the Nation