VOA TV – Hero Pilot Now Turns to Stopping a Descent in New Pilots

Pilot Chesley Sullenberger is known for his heroic actions in early 2009. He acted when his airplane struck birds and both engines failed just after it left an airport in New York.

AIR CONTROLLER: “Okay, which runway would you like at Teterboro?”
FLIGHT 1549: “We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”

Sullenberger decided where and how to land his US Airways plane.

CHESLEY SULLENBERGER: “We only had 208 seconds from the time we hit the birds to the time we landed.”

Sullenberger brought the plane down in the Hudson River. His quick thinking saved everyone on the aircraft.

CHESLEY SULLENBERGER: “For everyone on the airplane and our families, that event changed our lives instantly, completely, and if not forever, for a very long time.”

Since the landing, Chesley Sullenberger and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, have received many awards. In November, Sullenberger was at Purdue University in Indiana. He received the Neil Armstrong Medal of Excellence from the first man to walk on the moon.

NEIL ARMSTRONG: “A fellow member of the pilots-who-land-in-strange-places club. ”

The man called Sully retired from US Airways in 2010. Being famous gave him a chance to do other things.

CHESLEY SULLENBERGER: “This notoriety, this attention, has given me a greater voice to have a chance to make a difference about things I’ve cared about for many years. Aviation safety. The state of the airline piloting profession. And, of course, the future of aviation in this country.”

Now, Sullenberger heads a program for the Experimental Aircraft Association.

CHESLEY SULLENBERGER: “Young Eagles is a program of volunteers who give young people who are interested in aviation a first flight. It’s a chance to ignite their passion, a chance to provide for the future of aviation.”

His involvement comes during a time of changes in the airline industry. Wages for pilots and crews are down as a result of competition among low cost carriers. Chesley Sullenberger says many young people have lost interest in flying.

CHESLEY SULLENBERGER: “The number of student pilot starts, that is the number of people who begin to learn to fly, has decreased in the last number of years substantially. What we’re trying to do is arrest that descent and to renew people’s interest in aviation as a possibility for creation or for a profession.”

Sullenberger hopes the example he and his crew set on the Hudson River will fuel interest in aviation. And he wants to make sure that airline passengers will have skilled, experienced crews in the future. I’m Steve Ember.