President-elect Barack Obama has personally invited the Bay Area pilot who safely landed an airplane in the Hudson River in New York after it hit a flock of birds Thursday to his inauguration in Washington, D.C., this week, the mayor of Danville said today.
Capt. Chesley Sullenberger III will be joined by his family in the nation's capital as guests at the inauguration Tuesday. The pilot's wife, Lori Sullenberger, is flying to the East Coast with her daughters today to meet with the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich said.
"They are just overwhelmed beyond belief. It's extraordinary for them," Arnerich said. "Lori and their daughters want to see their dad. It is a pretty important thing for them to physically hug and hold him."
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Since the events of last Thursday have settled in everyone has been talking about what a hero Sullenberger is, but it could have gone the other way and the family realizes that, Arnerich said.
"Just the emotional impact of seeing the plane hit the water draws out a lot of emotion," he said.
The Airbus A320 was traveling from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Charlotte, N.C., when Sullenberger was forced to land it in the water. Everyone onboard - more than 150 people - made it off the plane safely, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The plane was hoisted from the river late Saturday. Federal investigators are inspecting it to determine if both engines stopped due to the birds, as reports have indicated.
Sullenberger is expected to return to Danville possibly on Friday, which happens to be his birthday, Arnerich said.
Old Town Danville is going to be temporarily closed next weekend for a hero's welcome celebration at the Town Green Community Center. The U.S. Air Force Color Guard will be there along with elected officials and community leaders.
The celebration is tentatively scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but everything is based on Sullenberger's schedule, according to Arnerich.
"Here is a local person who instantly became a national hero," he said. "We are ready whenever they get back."