January 16, 2009

Danville pilot who saved 155 lives hailed internationally as true hero

Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot responsible for what's being called a miracle--safely guiding a failing US Airways flight into New York's Hudson River Thursday--was obviously the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

According to his resume and colleagues interviewed by various news outlets, the Danville man is a former fighter pilot who speaks internationally on safety issues, has more than 40 years experience in aviation, and has collaborated with UC Berkeley on ways to avoid airline tragedies.

"I can imagine him being sufficiently in charge to get those people out," Karlene Roberts, a friend and UC Berkeley professor who co-directs the school's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, where Sullenberger is a visiting scholar, told the Contra Costa Times. The center researches ways to avoid airline tragedies, such as the one Sullenberger skillfully avoided. "He's got that kind of personality, which is to his credit."

And now he's being hailed as the "Hero of the Hudson" by The Huffington Post for landing the plane flat on the water, avoiding nearby Manhattan, and making sure all the passengers were safely out of the plane before leaving himself.

The Wall Street Journal said Sullenberger and the other pilots of Flight 1549 "achieved one of the rarest and most technically challenging feats in commercial aviation: landing on water without fatalities."

For his actions, Sullenberger has earned praise from New York city and state officials, aviation experts and ordinary people all over the world. Our own Mayor of Claycord at, the first local news source to break the news of Sullenberger's Danville affiliation, wrote: "From all accounts, Sullenberger is the one who really took the plane down, and made an easy landing in the river, saving 155 lives, and a lifetime of mourning for many families."

By late afternoon, news crews from CNN and local TV affiliates were lined up outside the Sullenberger's Danville home, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

CNN managed to get these comments from his wife, Lori Sullenberger: "I hadn't been watching the news. I've heard Sully say to people, 'It's rare for an airline pilot to have an incident in their career. ... When he called me he said, 'There's been an accident.' At first I thought it was something minor, but then he told me the circumstances and my body started shaking and I rushed to get our daughters out of school."

With all the bad news lately locally and around the world, from the riots in Oakland to the economic crisis, it does seem miraculous to get news that is more than good, it's body-shaking fantastic.

By the way, this photo of Sully comes from the website for his consulting business, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., which uses his expertise to "apply the latest advances in safety and high performance and high reliability processes to organizations in a variety of fields."

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