By SAMANTHA BOMKAMP
AP Transportation Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who was
hailed a hero after piloting the US Airways flight that landed on
the Hudson River in January of last year, is retiring.
Sullenberger will fly his final flight Wednesday afternoon,
along with his co-pilot during the Hudson landing, First Officer
Jeff Skiles. Sullenberger will end his 30-year career when he lands
at his home base at Charlotte (N.C.) Douglas International Airport.
He will officially retire at a private ceremony there with fellow
pilots and other US Airways employees.
Sullenberger, 59, joined US Airways' predecessor airline in
Flight attendant Doreen Welsh, 59, who was on Flight 1549 when
it landed in the Hudson, is also retiring. Welsh, 59, joined US
Airways' predecessor airline in 1970.
All 150 passengers survived the emergency river landing in
January 2009 when the plane's engines were struck by birds. The
plane landed within minutes of taking off from New York's
LaGuardia. It was supposed to fly to Charlotte, N.C.
One of the survivors, Mary Berkwitz, said by phone from her
Stallings, N.C., office that she was disappointed to hear the news.
"Every time I get on a plane, I feel like, Oh God, I hope it's
Sully at the pilot's seat. Now I know it's not going to be. In a
way it's sad," she said.
Since that famous flight last year, Sullenberger has testified
before Congress regarding pilot safety, given speeches about
education and written a book, "Highest Duty."
He became a member of US Airways' flight operations safety
management team last September.
Capt. James Ray, a spokesman for the US Airline Pilots
Association, which represents US Airways pilots, said that
Sullenberger plans to spend more time with his family in
retirement. He will also continue to talk to lawmakers about
raising minimum qualifications for pilots and work to lower the
maximum number of hours pilots are able to work in a single day,
"Each generation of pilots hopes that they will leave their
profession better off than they found it," Sullenberger said in a
statement. "In spite of the best efforts of thousands of my
colleagues, that is not the case today.
"Though I am retiring, I will continue to serve as the same
kind of advocate I have always been - not only for aviation safety,
but for the airline piloting profession. I will work to remind the
entire industry - and those who manage and regulate it - that we
have a sacred duty to our passengers to do the very best that we
know how to do."
While Sullenberg walked away from the emergency landing
unscathed, flight attendant Doreen Welsh was seriously injured in
the crash and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress
disorder. Speaking to The Associated Press from her home in
Ambridge, Pa., she says she is still afraid of the water.
Her continued discomfort while flying since the crash led her to
the decision to leave the only job she has ever had.
She signed on at the age of 19. "I grew up out there," she
Like Sullenbeger, Welsh plans to move on to a career giving
speeches about her experience in the crash.
"I feel grateful for still being alive," she said. The
opportunities of the last year "have been wonderful, but it was a
high price to pay. And if I could go back, I would have rather just
been flying and doing my job and not having gone through that,
because I have to live with that for the rest of my life."
Associated Press writer Samantha Gross in New York contributed
to this report.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)