After logging some 19,000 hours of acclaimed but anonymous service in the skies, Chesley B. Sullenberger III became a hero in a New York minute. On Jan. 15, the pilot, known as "Sully," safely guided all 155 passengers and crew aboard US Airways Flight 1549 to an emergency water landing in the city's frigid Hudson River. The Airbus A320's twin engines had apparently shut down after sucking in a flock of birds. New York Governor David Paterson hailed his exploits as the "miracle on the Hudson." But to those familiar with Sullenberger's background, his grace under pressure seemed less a miracle than a feat befitting a decorated pilot and an aviation-safety expert. As investigators prepared to heave the 81-ton jet out of the river on Friday, the Danville, Calif., resident had already vaulted to fame nationwide and across cyberspace. His burgeoning Facebook fan club has swelled beyond 10,000 members. See pictures of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River.
Since 2007, has run a safety-consulting firm, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., in addition to flying commercial aircraft
Has been a US Airways pilot since 1980
Served nearly seven years as an Air Force fighter pilot, attaining the rank of captain
Has served as a flight instructor, Air Line Pilots Association safety chairman, accident investigator and national-technical-committee member
Has investigated aviation accidents for the Air Force and the National Transportation Safety Board; helped developed new protocols for airline safety
Recipient of a 1973 bachelor's degree from the Air Force Academy, where he majored in psychology and basic sciences and accrued an array of academic awards
Has two master's degrees, one in industrial psychology from Purdue University (1973) and one in public administration from the University of Northern Colorado (1979)
Recently named a visiting scholar at the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, University of California, Berkeley
Quotes by Sullenberger:
"Brace for impact."
Sullenberger's announcement to those aboard the flight, as recounted by multiple passengers on the plane, New York Times, Jan. 16, 2009
Quotes about Sullenberger:
"He is the consummate pilot. He is about performing that airplane to the exact precision to which it is made."
Lorrie Sullenberger, the pilot's wife, New York Post, Jan. 16, 2009
"[He] did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure that everybody got out. He walked the plane twice after everybody else was off and tried to verify that there was nobody else onboard, and he ... made sure that there was nobody behind him."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at a post-crash press conference, lauding Sullenberger's performance, Jan. 15, 2009
"I just can't believe how well he did. We're all alive because of him."
Beth McHugh, 64, a passenger on US Airways Flight 1549, MSNBC.com, Jan. 16, 2009
"If anyone could do it, it would be him."
Frank Salzmann, a Danville, Calif., neighbor, New York Times, Jan. 16, 2009
Q&A: How to Survive a Plane Crash