Own a piece of 'Miracle on Hudson'

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airplaneThe sky's the limit for the amount of money a water-logged jetliner that an U.S. Airways pilot ditched in New York's Hudson River last year may bring at a recently announced auction.

Capt. Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger III flew into history books when he deftly landed his disabled aircraft in the waterway after its engines swallowed wayward geese.

Few travelers will forget those early grainy cell phone images of the jet's 155 passengers and crew huddled improbably on the plane's wings as they floated in the icy water. Observers christened the historic Jan. 15, 2009 incident as the "Miracle on the Hudson."

Now the Airbus A320, and not the pilot -- a military flyer with 40 years of experience in the cockpit who wrote a book about his ordeal -- is ready for its 15 minutes of fame. Chartis, the insurance company that represents U.S. Airways, recently put the narrow body plane up for auction on a New Jersey salvage lot.

The insurance company is keeping mum about the auction's specifics, with Marie Ali, a Chartis spokeswoman, telling WalletPop when pressed that she "can't comment on why I can't comment."

But a notice lists the aircraft has having "severe water damage throughout the airframe" and "impact damage to underside," according to the Associated Press. The plane is missing its engines and the company describes its equipment as "Destroyed."

Auctioning damaged aircraft isn't unusual, but salvage experts told WalletPop they were surprised that this plane is on the block, given the fact that its components can clearly never be reused.

"I've never seen it happen, as long as I've been in business, in an accident of that sort," said Doug Scroggins, of Las Vegas-based Aircraft Recycling Corp.

Salvagers are unlikely to touch the jetliner because of liability issues, he said.

Scroggins said he expects the aircraft to sell, but that the plane, which retails for upwards of $70 million, will likely only fetch a couple hundred thousand dollars. But that's not to say that bidding will not go higher if someone sets their sights on owning a piece of history.

A good afterlife for the plane, Scroggins suggests, would be to put it in a museum, or cut it in half and use it for firefighter training.

Perhaps the craft, after an overhaul of course, would do well as a restaurant, or a guest house?

Aircraft auctions are becoming increasingly common, particularly with a large number of private planes repossessed during the recession after their owners were unable to to pay hefty storage fees.

A $4.9 million Gulfstream jet remains the highest priced item sold to date on auction powerhouse eBay, according to Angela Leon, a spokeswoman for eBay Motors.

The auction for the "Miracle on the Hudson's" A320 is slated to close March 27.
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