Is US Airways Hiding Something About Hudson River Plane Crash?

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 26, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Factor Follow-up" segment tonight: Is there a cover-up in the case of US Air flight 1549, which crashed into the Hudson River on January 15? There was a welcome home party for the hero of that situation, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, in Danville, California, on Saturday. Captain Sullenberger has been kept away from the media, but said this:


CAPTAIN CHESLEY SULLENBERGER, US AIRWAYS PILOT: Circumstance determined that it was this experienced crew that was scheduled to fly at that particular flight on that particular day. But I know I can speak for the entire crew when I tell you we were simply doing the jobs we were trained to do.


O'REILLY: Now, that's the first time we have heard from the captain. And as we reported last week, just two days before the crash, the same plane experienced a mid-flight engine stall, a very troubling situation obviously. Yet, the National Transportation Safety Board told us the plane was checked out and airworthy. That is quite a coincidence. Same plane, engines give out two days before the crash.

Joining us now from Minneapolis, former airline pilot and current aerospace journalist Kathleen Banks. Do you think US Air is hiding something here, Ms. Banks?

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KATHLEEN BANKS, AEROPSACE JOURNALIST: Hi, Bill. It's good to be back on "The Factor." Well, no, I don't, and part of the reason is this investigation is under control of the NTSB and not US Airlines. They are going to be assisting in this, but the NTSB is one of the most pre-eminent investigation bodies of the world.

O'REILLY: OK, all right. So you don't believe there is an active cover-up of anything. You believe that the National Transportation Safety Board, which is, you think — is a legitimate organization, a skilled organization, but come on, you have been around a long time in the aviation industry.

BANKS: Yes, I have.

O'REILLY: You have one plane and the engines stall in mid-air and then the pilots reignite the engines and it proceeds down to Charlotte, North Carolina, from LaGuardia and lands safely. Two days later, the same plane crashes because the engines stall. Now I know about the geese and the ducks and everything else, but that's a coincidence that I can't — I just can't say oh, ok, you know?

BANKS: Well, let's remember, Bill, that this airplane was subject on New Year's, December 31, to what's called an AD, an Airworthiness Directive from the FAA, and that's sort of an emergency maintenance bulletin that comes out that says we want everybody that operates these Airbus engines — these engines are made by GE — we want them to investigate them because we have had a number of these compressor stalls happen and the most serious was December 15 over in Europe. An airplane took off and actually just about lost power on both engines on takeoff but was able to get power back and safely return to the airport. So US Air is going to take something like this very seriously and do an investigation and inspect these engines.

From what we have heard from the NTSB, US Air did inspect these engines, and what they're looking for is called high NGT. In other words, did these engines ever exceed the exhaust gas temperature that is the limit on them? In other words, are they running too hot? Because what they are looking at is these high time engines that have a lot of wear and tear and lot of hours, a lot of flight hours.

O'REILLY: Two days, is that enough time? Is that enough time to do an exhaustive examination of a plane which engines stall? Look, here is my concern. If I'm on a plane that crashes and I hear, you know — the pilot absolutely saved lives; there is no doubt. A less skilled pilot, everybody would be dead. Say they are all dead, Ms. Banks, say it's my child that died and I hear two days before this crash the same plane's engines went out, stalled, yet the plane was back in business 48 hours later. I'm telling you, madam, I'm going to get to the bottom of that. I'm going to file every lawsuit I can file. I'm going to get discovery in there, and I'm going to find out what happened. You see what I'm talking about here?

BANKS: Bill, I think you have a great point, except we forget one thing. What we forget is the right engine of this aircraft which they had attached to the airplane during the ditching was found to have feathers, organic bird material and multiple...

O'REILLY: A little bit, a little bit. But nothing overwhelming that we know of. A little bit. And the pilot radioed that he saw the things. I believe there were ducks and geese in the air. I got it. But what I'm saying to you, if the engines were weak, prone to stalling, and hit a few ducks, it's going to stall. If it was a strong, powerful engine with no problem, it rifles right through the ducks.

BANKS: Bill, you raise a very good point that the burden of proof is going on US Air to show these engines were not compromised in any way prior…

O'REILLY: I think this is a big story that's been overlooked by the media in the, you know, emotional of the pilot, of the hero pilot.

BANKS: Bill, I don't mean to interrupt. I want to stress these were not ducks. I want to stress they were Canadian geese which are enormous birds. These birds are three to four times the size of the birds that actually get tested on these engines.

O'REILLY: You know what I'm talking about here. I think there has got to be an explanation about GE, General Electric, making these engines, as you are pointing out, they have had trouble with these engines all over the place. They are culpable, too. We will get into that on another day. Ms. Banks, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

BANKS: I don't think we have heard the last on this.

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