Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger was born January 23, 1951 and is an American airline transport pilot (ATP), safety expert, and accident investigator from Danville, California, who successfully carried out the emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, offshore from Manhattan, New York City, on January 15, 2009, thus preventing any loss of life. There were 155 people on the plane. He is an international speaker on airline safety and has helped develop new protocols for airline safety.
On January 15, 2009, Sullenberger was pilot in command of an Airbus A320 from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. The flight was designated as US Airways Flight 1549 as well as United Airlines Flight 1919. Shortly after taking off, Sullenberger reported to air traffic control (ATC) that the plane had hit a large flock of birds, disabling both engines. Several passengers saw the left engine on fire. Sullenberger discussed with ATC the possibilities of either returning to LaGuardia or attempting to land at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. However, he quickly decided neither was feasible, and determined to ditch in the Hudson River. Sullenberger told the passengers to "brace for impact", then piloted the plane to a smooth ditching in the river at about 3:31 P.M. All passengers and crew members survived. He later said, "It was very quiet as we worked, my co-pilot and I. We were a team. But to have zero thrust coming out of those engines was shocking—the silence." Sullenberger checked the passenger cabin twice to make sure everyone had evacuated, before retrieving the plane's maintenance logbook and being the last to evacuate the aircraft.
Sullenberger, described by friends as "shy and reticent", has been noted for his poise and calm demeanor during the crisis. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, dubbed him, "Captain Cool". However, Sullenberger acknowledged that he had suffered some symptons of posttraumatic stress for the first couple of weeks following the crash, including sleeplessness and flashbacks, though this condition had improved by the time of his late February 2009 interview with People magazine. In a CBS 60 Minutes interview, he was quoted as saying that the moments before the crash were "the worst sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling" that he had ever experienced.
Mayor Bloomberg said that Sullenberger and his crew will receive the "Key to the City". Outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush called Sullenberger to thank him for saving the lives of the passengers, as did President-elect Barack Obama who also invited him to join the presidential inauguration ceremony. On January 16, 2009, the United States Senate passed a Congressional resolution to recognize and honor Sullenberger, co-pilot Jeff Skiles, the crew, passengers and first responders to Flight 1549's emergency landing. The United States House of Representatives passed a similar resolution on January 26, 2009.
Sullenberger attended the inauguration of Barack Obama, where he and his wife met President Obama. On January 22, 2009, Sullenberger, along with the rest of the crew of Flight 1549, was awarded a Masters Medal by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. A ceremony for Sullenberger was held on January 24, 2009, in his hometown of Danville, California, where he was presented with awards including Danville's "Key to the Town", and was named an honorary Danville police officer. San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District Chief Richard Price presented the Captain with the district's highest award, the Medal of Valor, which has only been given a few times in the district's history. Sullenberger, Skiles, and Flight 1549's cabin crew, Doreen Walsh, Sheila Dail and Donna Dent, were honored with a standing ovation during the Super Bowl XLIII pre-game. Sullenberger has also been awarded with honorary lifetime membership in The Seaplane Pilot's Association. Admirers of Sullenberger started a Facebook fan site that, as of late February 2009, had half a million members.