That's what happened to US Airways flight 1549 immediately after take-off from New York's LaGuardia Airport on January 15th last year. Following a bird-strike moments after take-off the aircraft did its best possible interpretation of a brick with wings and within moments, the pilot had determined that the only possible landing was in the river.
This water landing was achieved with minimal injuries and no loss of life, a testament to both the skill of the pilot and the structural strength of the aircraft. Wikipedia has an excellent summary of the incident.
According to the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators, in awarding the entire flight crew a Masters Medal on January 22nd, "The reactions of all members of the crew, the split second decision making and the handling of this emergency and evacuation was 'text book' and an example to us all. To have safely executed this emergency ditching and evacuation, with the loss of no lives, is a heroic and unique aviation achievement. It deserves the immediate recognition that has today been given by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators."
Roll forward just one year.
The protagonists have just celebrated the one year anniversary and the insurance company has decided to sell the plane for scrap. Unfortunately the wings will be delivered separated from the fuselage.
According to the very laconic auction page, "Aircraft suffered severe bird strike event resulting in water emergency landing.” Also they state, “Severe water damage throughout airframe. Impact damage to underside of aircraft." Umm, gosh, I wonder how that happened!
This once-mighty plane, with all its history, may well be consigned to the junk heap. One can only hope that a major museum (the Smithsonian perhaps?) will recognise the value of this aircraft and seek to preserve it, engines not included of course.
As always, bids start at $1.