Last night, 60 Minutes aired interviews with Flight 1549's pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, as well as the Flight 1549 crew—Sullenberger with co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles and flight attendants Donna Dent, Sheila Dail and Doreen Welsh. Sullenberger said, "It was a normal climb out in every regard," then "Birds, filling the entire windscreen, from top to bottom, left to right, large birds, close, too close to avoid." He soon smelled the burned bird and then engines failed, "It was obvious to me from the moment that we lost the thrust that this was a critical situation. Losing thrust on both engines, at a low speed, at a low altitude, over one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. Yes, I knew it was a very challenging situation."
Here's his interview, where he explains methodically how he thought about landing the plane in the Hudson ("I saw the river ahead of me. Long, wide with boats at the south end. We were trained to land in the water near other boats to facilitate rescue. That was where the airplane was headed and that was a good place to go.") and how he was comforted when he heard the flight attendants telling the passengers to brace for impact ("If I could land the airplane, that they could get them out safely"). As we suspected, he's got nerves of steel:
It turns out Sullenberger's wife Lorrie who, already on the phone, ignored his call...twice! She picked up the third time and was in "shock" when he told her he landed the plane in the Hudson. The Sullenbergers and their two teen daughters have been reading letters and cards from people—one sent him $5 for a beer. Lorrie Sullenberger read this one:
"Dearest Captain Sullenberger. Big Apple hero. Yesterday I received a voicemail from my 84-year-old father who lives on the 30th floor of a building with river views here in Manhattan. Had you not been so skilled, my father or others like him in their sky-high buildings could have perished along with your passengers had not you landed in the river as you had. As a Holocaust survivor my father taught me that to save a life is to save a world as you never know what the person you’ve saved nor his or her prodigy will go on to contribute to the peace and healing of the world. Bless you dear Captain Sullenberger. New York loves you."
Lorrie Sullenberger said, "That is my favorite one," and Sully replied, his eyes welling up, "Yeah, mine too."
After the jump are videos of the whole crew discussing the incredible flight, landing and aftermath (flight attendant Doreen Welsh was in the back—her uniform was in shreds when it was over) as well as Flight 1549's reunion with some passengers last week and Sully's thoughts about being a hero.
And in this segment, passengers are reunited with the crew and Couric asked Sully if he feels like a hero: "I don't feel comfortable embracing it, but I don't want to deny it. I don't want to diminish their thankful feeling toward me by telling them that they're wrong. I'm beginning to understand why they might feel that way... Something about this episode has captured people's imagination. I think they want good news. I think they want to feel hopeful again. And if I can help in that way, I will."