NEW YORK - JANUARY 05: Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III attends the premiere of "Brace for Impact" at the Walter Reade Theater on January 5, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III
Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, the Danville man famous for the January 2009 safe landing of a plane in the Hudson River in New York after a flock of birds disabled both of its engines, retired earlier this year after nearly 30 years as a commercial pilot.
Actually, "retired" might be too strong a word for what Sullenberger is up to these days, he said this weekend at an event in Hayward for local youth interested in aviation.
"It was retirement in name only," he said. "I just took one of many things off my plate, but I still am active as a safety advocate, doing public speaking, still traveling around, and of course doing volunteer work, a purpose that's very close to my heart."
That volunteer work brought him Saturday to the Hayward Executive Airport on behalf of the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles program.
In September, Sullenberger was named co-chair of the program along with Jeff Skiles, his co-pilot on US Airways Flight 1549 on Jan. 15, 2009. The two men safely landed the plane in the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 people onboard.
Sullenberger said the program, which takes children up in a small airplane for a short flight, "is designed to ignite passion in young people about aviation, either in terms of a career or for recreation."
The program's flights with the famous pilot today were canceled though due to high winds in the area.
"Part of what aviation is about is managing risk, and especially for people who are not experienced travelers, we want to make it a very positive and very pleasant experience for them," Sullenberger said. "It was a bit windy today, so we're going to wait to give them a flight another day."
The decision to land the plane in the Hudson River was a result of Sullenberger's risk management skills.
Rather than trying to make it back to LaGuardia Airport, where the plane had taken off minutes earlier, and risk potentially killing people on the ground if the plane didn't make it to the airport, he said he decided the safest option was to attempt the landing in the river.
The events of that day earned Sullenberger nationwide praise and attention. He was invited to President Obama's inauguration in Washington and honored at the Super Bowl and other events in the ensuing months, including receiving keys to the city in both New York City and his hometown of Danville.
He also released a book, "Highest Duty," in 2009, and said that he is working on another book that will be released in the next couple years.
Sullenberger said he has tried to take all the interest in the story, dubbed by the media as the "Miracle on the Hudson," and use it to honor his colleagues and inspire the next generation of aviators.
"Within days of our emergency landing in the Hudson, when it first became obvious to us that this story would get so much attention, we felt a real obligation to our profession and to our colleagues, that we'd be the best representatives of our profession and our industry," he said.