He has gotten a phone call from the president, a key to New York City and a standing ovation at a Broadway show. Now the pilot who safely landed his crippled jetliner in the Hudson River has gotten another all-American tribute _ some ribbing from David Letterman.
Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his fellow crew members from US Airways Flight 1549 appeared Tuesday on the “Late Show with David Letterman” and retold the dramatic story of the Jan. 15 flight _ this time, with plenty of laughs.
An example, according to the show's transcript: Letterman mentioned a passenger who opened a door in the rear of the plane, letting in water from the near-freezing river until it was closed again. Sullenberger jokingly replied, “I think it was Steve Martin who did that,” apparently referring to the comedian.
And when the host asked whether the Airbus A320 was designed to float, Sullenberger deadpanned, “We were very glad that this one remained intact and did.”
The captain even addressed his now-ubiquitous nickname: “With a name like Chesley, Sully is just going to have to happen.”
Sullenberger's crew mates generated several chuckles of their own, as when Letterman marveled at the plane's passage 1,000 feet over the George Washington Bridge minutes after birds apparently flew into and disabled both the aircraft's engines.
“It's better than zero feet,” first officer and co-pilot Jeff Skiles said.
On a serious note, Sullenberger said the crew members have experienced some trouble sleeping, distractedness and flashbacks to the near-disaster, which was dubbed a “miracle on the Hudson” after he guided the plane smoothly down within reach of rescue boats. All 155 people aboard survived.
“You know, each of us, all five of us, have experienced some of those typical symptoms. It's just human nature,” said Sullenberger, who was joined as well by flight attendants Sheila Dail, Donna Dent and Doreen Welsh.
Asked whether she was in shock after the emergency landing, Welsh said, “Still in shock, I think _ I mean, I'm on the David Letterman show.”