A pilot who managed to pilot a US Airways plane with 155 passengers on board to crash into the Hudson River near New York on Thursday has become America's newest national hero. Witnesses quoted by US media said they were astonished how the pilot acted calmly and skillfully to save all the passengers on board.

Witnesses said that Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger inspected the plane twice after it crashed into the river and was the last to leave the plane.

Governor David Paterson spoke of "miracle in the Hudson".

The pilot of the 1549 flight, aged 57, was an Air Force pilot in the seventies and later worked in the US commission investigating plane crashes. He had specialised psychologicy studies to deal with such incidents.

The US Airways plane crashed into the Hudson River near New York after hitting a flock of birds on leaving the LaGuardia airport, according to US media. The flight was bound to Charlotte, North Carolina.

The incident came the day President Bush held his televised farewell to Americans before leaving the Oval Office for Barack Obama next week.