'Sully' Sullenberger announces retirement

Danville pilot became famous after landing a malfunctioning plane in New York

Famed US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger announced this morning that he is retiring from the airline today.

Sullenberger became a household name when the Danville resident landed Flight 1549 in New York's Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009, after a flock of geese disabled the plane's engines. All 155 people on board survived.

The pilot said in a statement released this morning that he began his airline career 30 years ago last Thursday.

"I have been fortunate to have followed my passion for most of my life, working in a profession I dearly love, side by side with thousands of wonderful colleagues, including the man flying my final flight with me, Jeff Skiles," Sullenberger said.

Sullenberger, however, also criticized the airline industry, without going into specifics.

"Each generation of pilots hopes that they will leave their profession better off than they found it," he said. "In spite of the best efforts of thousands of my colleagues, that is not the case today."

Sullenberger, 59, joined US Airways in 1980 and became a member of the airline's flight operations safety management team last September.

A flight attendant on board Flight 1549 the day of the river landing, Doreen Welsh, is also retiring today, according to US Airways. Welsh and Sullenberger are based out of the airline's hub in Charlotte, N.C.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker released a statement in response to the pair's departure.

"I am extremely proud of Captain Sullenberger and Doreen for their quick thinking and courageous actions on Jan. 15, 2009 ... we will miss them and thank them for all they have given to our customers during their years of service with our airline," Parker said.

Sullenberger said that in retirement, he will continue to advocate for aviation safety and the airline piloting profession.

"I will work to remind the entire industry - and those who manage and regulate it - that we have a sacred duty to our passengers to do the very best that we know how to do," he said.

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