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Published: Friday, 1/16/2009

Pilot of plane skilled in emergencies

FROM THE BLADE'S NEWS SERVICES
US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger safely landed his plane on the Hudson River. US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger safely landed his plane on the Hudson River.
AP Enlarge

NEW YORK - Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger has made a career of making people safer.

A pilot, accident investigator, and scholar who founded a company focused on helping businesses improve safety, Mr. Sullenberger navigated his own emergency yesterday by bringing down his twin-engine US Airways plane on the Hudson River.

As his passengers climbed onto ferry boats, he walked the entire plane, twice, making sure no one was left behind, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Mr. Sullenberger, 57, is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, according to his resume. The center studies safety, infrastructure, and preparedness in emergency situations such as industrial accidents and natural disasters.

Mr. Sullenberger, who has flown for US Airways since 1980, flew F-4 fighter jets with the Air Force in the 1970s.

He then served on a board that investigated aircraft accidents and later participated in several National Transportation Safety Board investigations.

Mr. Sullenberger was hailed by fellow pilots for safely gliding his wounded airliner onto the Hudson River.

Aviation experts said his water landing not only was extraordinary, but smart.

"What he did under those circumstances was nothing short of magnificent," said Pick Freeman, a retired US Airways pilot. "There's so many things that could have gone wrong today. A wing tip could have caught in the water and caused it to cartwheel."

Upon landing on water, one of the final acts the captain would have taken would have been to press what's known as the "ditching switch," a black button that seals the plane's openings on the lower half of the aircraft and allows it to float longer than it otherwise would.

US Airways pilot Rick Kurner, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, said he was in the cockpit with Mr. Sullenberger about five years ago when the airplane had a hydraulic failure on a trip from Toronto to Pittsburgh. The captain was completely nonchalant, Mr. Kurner said.

"It was a nonevent because of Sully," he recalls. "He's just a pleasure to fly with. He's a professional, a good guy."



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