The town of Danville will hold a rousing homecoming celebration for Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger at 1 p.m. today on the Town Green, 400 Front St., in Danville.
Sullenberger, who piloted US Airways Flight 1549 for a water landing in the Hudson River in New York, saving all 155 people on board, will be honored by Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, the Danville Town Council, Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) and other dignitaries. He will be there with his wife Lorrie and their two teenage daughters.
A Danville high school student will sing the national anthem and the U.S. Air Force Color Guard will perform. The program will include remarks by elected officials, presentation of the colors by the U.S. Air Force Color Guard out of Travis Air Force Base, and a performance of the national anthem by San Ramon Valley High School student Grace Leer. Leer was a finalist in the American Idol's "American Juniors" television show, according to her Web site, and performs at events around the Bay Area.
"Captain Sully did something extraordinary and unprecedented on Jan. 15, 2009," Mayor Arnerich said. "I can think of at least 155 reasons why our town should join together to celebrate our neighbor and friend, and his family."
Sullenberger was flying a US Airways Airbus, which had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport on its way to Charlotte, N.C. The crash occurred at 3:26 p.m. eastern time, going down in the river near 48th street in midtown Manhattan. The plane struck a flock of geese, a hazard which is known to have been responsible for several plane crashes over the years. Ferries were able to reach the plane quickly and offload the passengers before the plane sank into the freezing waters. Only minor injuries were reported in the crash landing, with victims treated for hypothermia, bruises and abrasions.
One of the plane's two engines was found intact in the aircraft and investigators are still locating the other in the Hudson.
It will cap a whirlwind two weeks for Sullenberger, who was invited to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama by the president himself. Ever since the crash, the incident has received national and even worlwide coverage, with Sullenberger becoming a media darling. Within a couple hours, a Facebook page was created for the pilot, who has been dubbed the Hero of the Hudson, and reporters from newspapers, TV stations and magazines spent several days camped outside the family's Danville home.
"Captain Sullenberger has said that he, his crew, and the New York City emergency responders were just doing their jobs--but what they did was an inspiration to every American," Arnerich said.
Sullenberger has more than 40 years of flying experience, 29 of those years with US Airways. He is a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and has served as an instructor and Air Line Pilots Association Safety Chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member. He is currently the CEO and president of Safety Reliability Methods Inc. in Danville. On the company's website, it reads "Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. (SRM) was created to apply the latest advances in safety and high performance and high reliability processes to organizations in a variety of fields.
Neighbors were impressed with Sullenberger's achievement, but not surprised.
Jane Garcia, who is also a friend of the family and has known them for five years, said, "It's not surprising--he's a great guy. He's extremely intelligent, very conscientious; his whole family is like that."
Another neighbor, Frank Salzmann, said Sullenberger has a solid character and is calm and controlled--exactly the sort of person he'd want at the helm in an emergency. "He's just the kind of person you'd think could pull something like that off," Salzmann said.
The mayor is encouraging the public to attend the celebration, where the Sullenbergers are not expected to make extensive statements nor take questions from the press. The United States Airline Pilots Association has asked the Sullenbergers to not grant interviews until the investigation is completed.
Family spokesperson Libby Smiley said the family is "grateful for and humbled by the expressions of support from their neighbors and friends, and they wish to share this special moment with the people of Danville. "
Planning for the event remains fluid. Gov. Schwarzenegger and other dignitaries have been invited, but have not confirmed whether they'll attend.
Danville spokesman Greg Gilbert, said town officials are working with the governor's office to see if he will be able to attend.
"It's a schedule issue," he said. "I'm sure he would rather be here than dealing with the Legislature."