Friday, January 16, 2009

USAir hero was an Air Force fighter pilot

Meet Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III.

Sullenberger, 57, of Danville, Calif., is a former fighter pilot who runs a safety consulting firm in addition to flying commercial aircraft. He had been studying the psychology of keeping airline crews functioning even in the face of crisis.

"When a plane is getting ready to crash with a lot of people who trust you, it is a test," he said. "Sulley proved the end of the road for that test. He had studied it, he had rehearsed it, he had taken it to his heart."

Sullenberger became an instant hero Thursday, earning accolades from those aboard US Airways Flight 1549, from New York's mayor and governor, and from an online fan club.

Sullenberger has flown for US Airways since 1980, flew F-4 fighter jets with the Air Force in the 1970s. He then served on a board that investigated aircraft accidents and participated later in several National Transportation Safety Board investigations.

He is president of Safety Reliability Methods, a California firm that uses "the ultra-safe world of commercial aviation" as a basis for safety consulting in other fields, according to the firm's Web site.

Sullenberger's mailbox at the firm was full on Thursday. A group of fans sprang up on Facebook within hours of the emergency landing.