November 23, 2011 — It was a day of firsts and for remembering.
For the first time since the historic splash landing in the Hudson River in 2009, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger on Nov. 18 re-boarded the Airbus 320 now known as the Miracle on the Hudson.
But that was eclipsed by an earlier first, when Sullenberger, First Officer Jeff Skiles and some of the passengers from Flight 1549 all got back into a plane together. But this time Sullenberger and Skiles were flying a vintage, prop-driven Eastern Air Lines DC-7 restored by Historical Flight Foundation in Miami. The fundraising flight — with tickets costing $1,000 per passenger — took them to Charlotte Douglas International Airport to see the fuselage and tail of the famous plane, which is now an attraction at the Carolinas Aviation Museum.
“It's a familiar place,” Sullenberger told the San Antonio Express after dropping back into the left seat on the flight deck of the US Airways jetliner.
Sullenberger recalled the hectic events of the Hudson River landing after geese were ingested into the engines. When it appeared everyone had evacuated the plane Sullenberger said he and Skiles walked the length of the cabin, pulling up seat cushions, life vests, blankets and coats, then pitched them out the doors to passengers huddling on the wings and in rafts. Then, with water rising in the rear of the plane, Sullenberger said he made one last walk down the aisle, the San Antonio Express reported.
“I was looking at every row to make certain no one was left inside,” he said. “I was just determined I was not going to let anyone perish now.”
The Airbus arrived at the Charlotte museum this summer aboard a flatbed truck, attracting tens of thousands of spectators along the way. While restoration of the plane is continuing, it is being kept in the condition it was found in after the water landing. Oxygen mask containers hang open from the crash and switches and controls in the cockpit are in the same position they were in when the plane was abandoned.
At about 4 p.m. the DC-7 took off with a new crew to return to Miami. But after a minute after liftoff, one of the four engines failed and the plane circled back to Charlotte-Douglas, where it was landed safely and was grounded overnight for repairs.
Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger poses for a photo in the cockpit of US Airways jet Flight 1549 at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C., on November 18. Sullenberger is the pilot who landed the US Airways flight safely into the Hudson River. Photo credit: Todd Sumlin
Passengers lined up Friday to board the historic DC-7, which was flown by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles.
Photo credit: Facebook
Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, left, and co-pilot Jeff Skiles at Opa Locka Airport before the flight took off on Friday, November 18, 2011. Source: CBS4