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FAA Releases Cockpit Tapes From US Airways Flight 1549 Before Hudson River Landing

The pilot of the crippled US Airways jet that landed in the Hudson River predicted that he might be forced to bring the plane down in the water, according to cockpit recordings released Thursday by the FAA.

In the tapes, air traffic controllers can be heard communicating with Flight 1549's captain, Chesley Sullenberger, who tells them he lost both engines and is heading back to the airport to land the plane.

Sullenberger stays calm throughout, but at one point warns that "we're gonna be in the Hudson."

Click here for excerpts of the tapes and transcripts.

The recordings capture the first distress calls made by Sullenberger to air traffic control.

"We've got an emergency return," a controller says. "He's had a bird strike. He's returning immediately. ... He lost both engines, he said."

Controllers tell him that Runway 4 at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, where the flight originated, is available.

Sullenberger says he won't make it that far.

"Unable," he says. "We may end up in the Hudson."

Controllers suggest nearby Teterboro Airport instead.

At first Sullenberger says yes. Less than 20 seconds later, he realizes that, too, will be impossible.

"We're unable," Sullenberger tells controllers. "We're gonna be in the Hudson."

The tapes reflect the initial confusion about whether the passenger jet went into the river.

"I'm sorry, say again," an air traffic controller responded after hearing the pilot's message that he was ditching the Airbus A320.

There was no response from the aircraft, which had been bound for Charlotte, N.C. Air traffic control lost contact with the plane as it splashed down into the Hudson.

"He lost all thrust" and "they're gone, all frequencies," the controller tells another plane that is preparing to take off.

Sullenberger landed the plane safely; all 155 passengers and crew onboard were rescued and survived.

Air traffic control can be heard communicating as they watch the drama unfold.

"Looks like he's going down," says one controller.

"He's in the water!" another exclaims.

Sullenberger has told FAA investigators he glided the plane into the river rather than risking a catastrophic crash in a densely populated area.

He gave his first interview Sunday at the Super Bowl, where he and the crew of Flight 1549 were honored, and said he stayed outwardly calm but felt inner "turmoil" during the frightening river landing.

Sullenberger said the moments after both engines of US Airways Flight 1549 lost power were the worst of his life.

He told Katie Couric in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview it was "the worst sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling" he's ever had.

Sullenberger said his first reaction when birds flew into the plane's engines was disbelief.

The captain praised New York City's first responders. He said "thank you seems totally inadequate" and he has "a debt of gratitude" he fears he may never be able to repay.

On Wednesday, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that remnants of birds were found in the aircraft's engines, which caused them to malfunction.

The flight data recorder revealed no anomalies or malfunctions in either engine until Sullenberger reported striking birds, the board said.

Engine maintenance records also show the engines had been serviced in compliance with the FAA's most recent safety directive, the board said.

Last week, the aircraft was moved from the barge where it had been docked in Jersey City, N.J., to a secure salvage yard in Kearny, N.J, where it will remain throughout the estimated 12 to 18 months the NTSB investigation could take.

Click here for all the tapes and transcripts released by the FAA.

Click here to watch a video of US Airways Flight 1549 making emergency landing.

Click here for photos.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.