"Sully" has a message for Washington: "be very careful" when it comes to cuts to the FAA.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, hero pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger talked about recent safety problems that have been discovered throughout the airline industry.
He also talked about the House version of a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, which proposes $4 billion in cuts to FAA funding over the next four years.
"I would say you have to be very careful," Sullenberger told the website. "It's very difficult to cut the budget that much and not have an effect on safety."
Of particular concern to Sullenberger is the Shuster Amendment, which Republican Rep. Joe Shuster of Pennsylvania says would "increase aviation safety and improve the FAA rulemaking process."
But Sullenberger said the amendment, which would include a mandate that "regulations are based on sound science; an assessment of its economic impact; and a reasoned cost benefit analysis," would force the FAA to base rules around cost, rather than safety.
"One of the implications is that the only the most innocuous, least costly rules would be adopted because otherwise there might be too much industry pressure," Sullenberger said. "And it would not only delay and water down safety rules, it would exempt whole segments of the airline industry from having to comply with safety rules."
Sullenberger became a national hero when, in January 2009, he successfully landed a plane in the Hudson River. The emergency landing took place after the plane had flown through a flock of birds, blowing out both engines. The former US Airways pilot has since retired and become an air safety advocate.
While flying is still technically the safest way to travel, Sullenberger says that safety shouldn't only be defined as "a lack of accidents."
"If we don't proactively look for systematic risks and address them, if we wait for a bad outcome, then we haven't done our job effectively," he said.