"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." (Captain Sully Sullenberger)
We will never forget the TV images of five years ago today: a plane sat on the chilly Hudson River, passengers spilled out onto its wings, partly submerged in the water, waiting to be rescued.
Captain Chesley Bunetter (Sully) Sullenberger was a former fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He had worked for U.S. Airways for 30 years. He had logged 20,000 hours in the air. On January 15, 2009, he took off from LaGuardia Airport on what appeared to be a normal day. However, a minute after takeoff, his plane collided with a flock of Canada geese, wreaking havoc with the aircraft. Passengers saw flames coming from one of the engines. Captain Sullenberger heard not a sound coming from either engine. He radioed the control tower of his predicament. They radioed back that he should land at the closest airport, Teterboro. His response was: "We're gonna be in the Hudson."
Sullenberger guided U.S. Airways Flight 1549 onto the surface of the Hudson River on that frosty day. The plane floated down to the river, an eerie silence accompanied its approach. One by one, the air flight attendants ushered the passengers onto the plane's wings. Commuter boats, sightseeing ferries and rescue vessels raced to the scene, ready to pick up the stranded passengers. Photographers snapped photos of the aircraft, resting in the Hudson, New York's skyscrapers gracing the background. The captain was the last two evacuate the airplane, after checking its aisle, not once but twice to make sure everyone had exitted. Not one person died that day; the worst injury was two broken legs. Passengers returned to their anxious families and Captain Sullenberg flew home to his wife and daughters in California.
"Sully" Sullenberger became a hero overnight. He was invited to the inauguration of Barack Obama at the White House. He signed a book deal for HIghest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters. He retired in 2010 from flying and became a consultant and public speaker. No one will ever forget what New York City Governor Paterson would dub "The Miracle on the Hudson".