US Airways Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles were reunited in the cockpit Thursday for the first time since Sullenberger safely landed a disabled passenger plane in the Hudson River in January.
“It was great to fly with Jeff again. Being back in the cockpit felt very familiar. It was like coming home,” Sullenberger said of the flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina. “Even though several months had past since I’ve flown, it would seem like I had never left.” It was the first time Sullenberger had flown the New York to Charlotte route since the water on landing on January 15. A bird strike in the engines forced Flight 1549 to make an emergency landing in the icy waters between New York and New Jersey. The landing made heroes of Sullenberger and the flight’s crew, who managed to lead passengers to safety with only a few minor injuries. Three passengers from Flight 1549 were on Thursday’s flight, along with several US Airways officials and members of the press. Passenger Denise Lockie said that when she heard about Sullenberger’s return, she changed her plans so she could be on the flight. Watch Sullenberger talk about the flight Thursday’s flight also was Sullenberger’s first in his new role as an active management pilot for US Airways. In addition to his flying duties, Sullenberger will will join the airline’s flight operations safety management team, which helps airlines assess potential risks and act to mitigate them, US Airways said. Both men took time off before returning to the cockpit, US Airways said, during which they completed requalification training. Skiles returned to work in April, US Airways said. Since then, he has flown more than 60 flights. Sullenberger completed his training September 11. “We are giving the crew the time they need to decide what’s right for their futures. They are making their own decisions about when it’s right for them to come back to work,” US Airways said.
Sullenberger said the clear skies and nice weather made Thursday’s flight go smoothly. “It was a beautiful day to fly,” he said. “This flight today was a lot longer than that one in January, and I was able to give [CEO Doug Parker] back his airplane without getting it wet first.”