The U.S. Airways pilot who safely landed his jet on New York's Hudson River after a collision with geese killed power in both engines is about to return to the skies.
Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger will soon be back at the helm of passenger jets and it is likely that after his incredible landing on Jan. 15 -- dubbed the Miracle on the Hudson -- passengers everywhere will clamor to be on his flights.
But even if you can't get Sullenberger as your pilot, there are still a number of steps you can take to stay safe in the air.
While it might not seem natural to cruise six miles up in the air over the country, it is a lot safer than driving from coast to coast.
"First of all, by any measure … this is the safest form of transportation in the history of mankind," said John Nance, an aviation expert and ABC News consultant. "Day by day, seven days a week, 365 day a year, almost nothing goes wrong."
Airplanes are designed with multiple redundant systems and Nance pointed out that over a five-year period starting at the end of 2001, the country went without a single fatality on a commercial airline.
US Airways isn't saying much about Sullenberger's return to the cockpit. It should be soon and he will also take on a role as part of the airline's flight operations safety management team.
Sullenberger's return couldn't come at a better time for the airline industry. Today, airlines are among the most-hated businesses out there. Pilots have gone from once being everyday heroes -- think back to Pam Am pilots in the 1960s -- to now being seen as just another cog in the big corporate machinery.
Expect Sullenberger to play a big role in the airline's marketing campaign.
Maybe his new book -- due out about the same time he could return to the cockpit -- will be serialized in the in-flight magazine. Or he might make a cameo on the in-flight safety video, said Richard Levick, president and CEO of Levick Strategic Communications, a crisis communications firm.
"When you're comparing airlines, having the brand of safety is an incredibly powerful brand," Levick said. "In the market place, everything takes place in the mind. So it's all about perception. Perception trumps reality.
"Up until this," he added, "US Airways' brand was the airline that went bankrupt twice."
At the same point, Levick warned that the airline can't overplay it. Sullenberger could be part of some television advertising but can't dominate. Maybe some frequent fliers meet with him. The real trick will be to elongate it so that a year or two from now Sullenberger and US Airways will come up in Internet searches for "safest airline."
Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, a branding consulting firm, said US Airways should build an ad campaign around Sullenberger. The message: we have "an authentic hero" and while you might not fly with Sully, all of our people are like this guy.
"These days, generally speaking, the airlines don't really have any real point of differentiation," Passikoff said. "In fact most people don't care very much for airlines. Talk to people about them and you hear: They're always late, or they're always crowded, or they're charging you to check baggage. Most people don't have good things to say about airlines."
So how do you get Sully as your pilot?