Geese can finally come out of their hiding places -- the hero of the skies is calling it a day.
Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who deftly touched his lame jetliner down in the Hudson River in January fof last year, announced his retirement Wednesday.
“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," he said in a statement.
Sullenberger, 59, joined US Airways' predecessor airline in 1980.
Flight attendant Doreen Welsh, who was also on Flight 1549 when it landed in the Hudson, is also retiring. Welsh, 59, joined US Airways' predecessor airline in 1970.
“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," the pilot wrote.
“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.”
What happened on January 15, 2009 become known forevermore as the Miracle on the Hudson. After a collision with a flock of birds disabled the aircraft's engines, Capt. Sullenberger ditched his plane in the river, averting catastrophe and saving the lives of all 150 passengers on board.
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 will fly his final flight to his home base at Charlotte (N.C.) Douglas International Airport Wednesday afternoon. He will officially retire at a private ceremony there with fellow pilots and other US Airways employees.
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.