"Sully is an American treasure and it is a real thrill to have him on our team at CBS News," chairman Jeff Fager said. "I am a huge fan of Sully's. He is a remarkable person who has a great ability to turn his significant experience into useful insights."
Sully became an overnight hero when, on Jan. 15, 2009, shortly after taking off and striking a flock of birds that knocked out the engines, he guided US Airways Flight 1549 into a safe splashdown in the Hudson River.
Not said in the press release was how Sullenberer became an important emblem of how experience and expertise is sorely needed these days:
Sullenberger is the CEO of an aviation safety firm, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. His online CV says he started his flying career serving seven years in the US air force in Europe, the Pacific and at Nellis air force base in Nevada. While there, he was a mission commander in aerial war games known as red flag exercises.
He no doubt used that experience when, three minutes after taking off from LaGuardia airport, in New York, his Airbus A320 hit a flock of geese and lost power in both engines.
According to controllers, there was an "eerie calm" about the controller and cockpit communications as options dwindled. Return to LaGuardia? Too far. Land at the small Teterboro airport across the river in New Jersey? The plane wouldn't make that either. An audacious river landing was the only option, an official of the controllers' union told Reuters.
"That was pretty much it," said Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "It was very clear to our controllers that he was going to make an attempt at the Hudson."
Sullenberger told passengers via intercom: "Brace yourself for a hard impact." Then he calmly put the aircraft down on the Hudson river. He was the last to leave the plane, walking the aisle twice to ensure nobody was left behind, according to the New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
Sullenberger is a graduate of the USAF academy, Purdue University and the University of Northern Colorado. He was a speaker on two panels at the High Reliability Organisations (HRO) international conference in Deauville, France, in 2007 and has just been named a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.
He served as an instructor and Airline Pilots Association safety chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member, local media said. He has participated in several USAF and National Transportation Safety Board accident investigations.
His safety work led to the development of a Federal Aviation Administration advisory circular. Working with Nasa scientists, he co-authored a paper on error-inducing contexts in aviation. He was instrumental in the development and implementation of the crew resource management course used at his airline and has taught the course to hundreds of colleagues.
"He did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river" and evacuating the passengers, Bloomberg said of Sullenberger.
He sure did, Mr. Mayor.
One wonders if the minimum wage pilots with barely any flight experience and shoddy training who crashed their plan in upstate New York that same year, killing everybody on board, could have used a veteran pilot with decades of experience and seasoning in the cockpit.
I bet they could have.
But these days, we just go for cheap and young over a little more expensive but a helluva lot more experienced.
Dollars over lives.