Stunned survivors of the Hudson River plane crash last night said only the brilliance of the pilot had averted a catastrophe, according to Daily Mirror.

After two engines failed minutes after take-off, the pilot managed to steer the crippled jet from Manhattan`s buildings and safely crash-land into the icy river.

It is thought the US Airways Airbus 320 had hit a flock of birds causing the engines to explode. According to experts the pilot, dad of two Chesley B. Sullen-berger III, 57, even managed to land at the correct angle to stop the jet sinking - giving all 155 on board time to scramble to safety.

Passenger Alberto Panero said: "I just feel so lucky to be alive - it`s a miracle."

"I thank the Lord and I thank the pilot that he managed to land the plane."

Alberto told how he heard a loud bang just after leaving New York`s LaGuardia airport, then the cabin filled with smoke.

He felt the plane start to turn as the calm pilot announced "Get ready for impact". Albert said: "Then we hit the water. There were people yelling and crying and then it got quiet.

"I said to myself `This is it`. Then I realised I was ok but I could feel us sinking. We just got to the exits and we started to get everybody out.

"Within moments there were boats next to us. I`m just glad everyone managed to live through it."

New York Governor David Paterson said: "We`ve had a miracle on 34th Street - I believe we`ve had a miracle on the Hudson. This was potentially very tragic.

"This pilot, somehow without any engines, was able to land this plane and perhaps without any serious injuries."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the pilot had done "a masterful job" to land the plane and make sure everybody got out. He added: "I talked to the pilot and he said he walked the plane twice to verify that nobody else was on board."

Another passenger said: "After the explosion we thought we were on our way back to the airport. Then, suddenly the pilot told us to brace ourselves. As soon as we hit the water, people began scrambling for the life-rafts.

"There didn`t seem to be time for real panic. Maybe we were all too shocked."

Airline expert David Learmount said Sullenberger, thought to have 40 years of flying experience, had done an excellent job.

He said: "He landed with his wings level in the water, a perfect landing in that situation.

"A ditching drill is very rare and he did it brilliantly. The river is the best option in a built up area." Mr Learmount, editor of Flight International, said the pilot was helped by the fact he was on a short flight to North Carolina. He said: "The tanks would have only a little fuel so there was lot of air which gave it buoyancy, which is why it stayed afloat. The passengers would not have lasted long in the water."

Sullenberger`s wife Lorrie said her husband was the "consummate pilot", and added: "I thinks he`s fine but I can`t stop shaking."

Flight 1549, carrying 150 passengers and five crew, issued a Mayday after the engines failed.

It is thought the pilot may have tried to nurse the aircraft back to LaGuardia but realised they would not make it. New Yorkers watched in horror as the plane limped towards the water, flames billowing from two engines. Jay Namier said: "As I watched, the nose dipped and the plane began to descend over the city."

Danita Johnson added: "The plane seemed to glide on to the water. It was the smoothest, most perfect landing I ever saw. It just scudded to a halt and floated there." The aircraft landed in about 50ft of water near Manhattan`s 50th Street.

Within minutes six ferries, including two tourist ships, rushed to pick up passengers.

Ferry worker Celeste Velasquez said: "There were people in the water - frozen, soaked, horrible. There were 20 or 30 others standing on the port wing trying to get to safety."

Police later said that all the passengers and crew were rescued, many by divers dropped by helicopter. Paramedics treated a total of 78 people, mainly for exposure and hypothermia.