Hero pilot describes Hudson splash landing

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February 3, 2009 6:09:08 PM PST
In his first public comments about what it was like to safely land a passenger jet in the Hudson River, US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger described the ordeal as "surreal" and said the silence in the cockpit after both engines lost power was "shocking." In a brief interview with ESPN the night before the Super Bowl - where he and the crew were given a standing ovation - Sullenberger said that while he was guiding the plane to a splash landing he felt "calm on the outside, turmoil on the inside."

The California pilot has been called a hero for safely landing the Airbus 320, which lost power in both engines after striking a flock of birds shortly after taking off from New York's LaGuardia Airport. All 150 passengers and crew members were rescued safely.

Asked what it was like when he realized both engines were out, Sullenberger called it "shocking."

"It was very quiet as we worked, my co-pilot and I. We were a team. But to have zero thrust coming out of those engines was shocking - the silence," he said.

His wife, Lori Sullenberger, said the two of them have been opening letters from well-wishers every night that are so emotional, "it allows both of us to express emotion about it all.

We both sit there and cry."

The couple are to appear in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CBS's "60 Minutes."

In an account of the ordeal published in The Dallas Morning News on Friday, Susan O'Donnell, an American Airlines pilot who was a passenger on Flight 1549, said that as the plane approached the water, the passengers "remained calm and almost completely quiet."

She described the impact as much milder than she had anticipated. "If the jolt had been turbulence, I would have described it as moderate," she said.

O'Donnell praised Sullenberger's leadership, saying he talked with passengers and crew after the landing and that he'd even remembered to take the aircraft logbook with him.

She said Sullenberger asked her if she wanted to join the crew at the hotel, and that she accepted, as she had lost her wallet.

"He immediately pulled out his wallet and gave me $20. His concern for me when he had so much else to worry about was amazing," O'Donnell said.


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