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 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.
“Thirty years ago last Thursday, I began my airline career. I have been fortunate to have followed my passion for most of my life, working in a profession I dearly love, side by side with thousands of wonderful colleagues, including the man flying my final flight with me, Jeff Skiles,” Sullenberger said in a statement.
“Each generation of pilots hopes that they will leave their profession better off than they found it. 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.”
All 150 passengers aboard US Airways flight 1549 survived the emergency river landing in January 2009 after the plane’s engines were hit by birds. The plane landed within minutes of taking off from New York’s LaGuardia airport, headed for Charlotte, N.C.
Since that famous flight last year, Sullenberger has testified before Congress regarding pilot safety, given speeches about education and written a book, “Brace for Impact.”
He became a member of US Airways’ flight operations safety management team last September.
Sullenberger, 59, joined US Airways’ predecessor airline in 1980.
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.
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, Ray said.