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Profile: Chesley Sullenberger, 'hero of the Hudson'

16 January 09 09:37 GMT

If you could choose a pilot to crash-land your plane, Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger III would be a good choice.

Capt Sullenberger, 57, who ditched US Airlines Flight 1549 safely into the Hudson River in New York, has over 40 years of flying experience and heads his own safety consulting business.

The former US Air Force fighter pilot from California has served as an instructor and as an Airline Pilots Association (Alpa) safety chairman and accident investigator.

He has taken part in several USAF and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigations.

According to the New York Times newspaper, Capt Sullenberger is also a certified glider pilot.

Search for passengers

Capt Sullenberger has been widely praised for his "masterful landing", which was a "miracle on the Hudson", according to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Less than a minute after his Airbus A320 to Charlotte, North Carolina, took off, Capt Sullenberger reported a "double bird strike" and asked to return to the ground, an air controllers union spokesman said.

Both engines had apparently been disabled by a flock of birds.

According to air traffic controllers, an "eerie calm" defined their communications with the cockpit as their options dwindled and the pilot decided to ditch into the Hudson, a union official told Reuters news agency.

Incredibly, Capt Sullenberger managed to land the aircraft safely on the water.

Mayor Bloomberg said that the pilot told him that the captain then "walked the plane twice after everybody else was off and tried to verify that there was nobody else onboard".

Capt Sullenberger's wife, Lorrie Sullenberger, a fitness expert in Danville, California, said she learned of the crash when her husband called her on Thursday afternoon.

"He said, 'There's been an accident'," she told CNN.

"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," she said.

One of their neighbours, Candace Andersen, said the right pilot had been in charge at the time of the accident.

"You look at his training, you look at his experience - it was the right pilot at the right time in charge of that plane that saved so many lives," she said.

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