Pilot has experience handling crisis


Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 8:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 8:31 p.m.

NEW YORK óChesley "Sully" Sullenberger has made a career of making people safer.

A pilot, accident investigator and scholar who founded a company focused on helping businesses improve safety, Sullenberger navigated his own emergency Thursday, bringing his twin-engine US Airways plane down on the Hudson River.

As his passengers climbed onto ferry boats, he walked the entire plane, twice, making sure that no one was left behind, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

"This pilot did a wonderful job," the mayor said.

Reached by phone Thursday night, Sullenberger's wife, Lorraine, said simply that she was proud of her husband.

The couple lives in Danville, Calif., where Chesley Sullenberger is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, according to his resume. The center studies safety, infrastructure and preparedness in emergency situations such as industrial accidents and natural disasters.

Sullenberger launched his career at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He flew F-4s for seven years, in Europe, the Pacific and at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

He joined U.S. Airways in 1980.

Sullenberger was the right person to handle Thursday's crisis, said Karlene Roberts, a friend and UC Berkeley professor who co-directs the risk management school.

"I can imagine him being sufficiently in charge to get those people out," Roberts told the San Jose Mercury News. "He's got that kind of personality, which is to his credit."

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