Capt. Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger Back in the Sky After 'Miracle on Hudson'

"I was just glad to be back. It was kind of the culmination of getting back to normal again," Records said. "There were occasions when you would look down flying across the Sioux City area. You could see the airport, the city and the river. You could see all the areas we circled around. You would just kind of look down, reminisce and think how fortunate I was."

Haynes and Dudley also returned to flying. Records sat in the jumpseat for the retirement flight of Haynes and also once had Dudley as his co-pilot.

"We landed," Records recalls, "and one of the flight attendants came up and said: Boy was that ever a firm landing. And Dudley said: That wasn't too bad. As a matter of fact, the last time he landed, he broke my leg."

The flight attendant had no clue about the men's history.

"In an accident like that, unless you are the captain, nobody knows who you are," Records said.

Today, everyone seems to know Sullenberger.

Sully the Promotion Machine

Richard Levick, president and CEO of the crisis communications firm Levick Strategic Communications, said that so far,US Airways has handled this situation well. They can promote Sullenberger as long as it is done in a "classy" manner, he said.

"He's a hero, but he's a pilot first. They don't what a caricature, they want a human," Levick said. "They're walking that fine line between the avuncular, respected hero and an overplayed celebrity. They've clearly stayed with the approachable, everyday hero."

The media coverage thus far has been very controlled, he said, because the airline doesn't want to risk overexposure or make it seem like they are pushing a "slick marketing campaign."

"That would be counter to everything that makes Captain Sully so appealing to the American people," Levick said.

The real challenge will be to keep the public interested over the long term. Levick suggested that US Airways make Sullenberger its public face in some commercials and even as a blogger. He also said the airline could serialize Sullenberger's book in the in-flight magazine or have the pilot make cameos on in-flight safety videos.

John M. Cox spent 25 years flying for US Air and five years as the top safety official for the Air Line Pilots Union.

"Yes, it is a big day. It is a return back to a more of a normal existence for him but I don't think there is any trepidation about it," said Cox, who is currently the CEO of Safety Operating Systems, a Washington, D.C., aviation safety consulting firm. "Any of us who have flown airplanes for decades recognize the safety of which the aviation system brings."

Cox said that is it likely that Sullenberger and Skiles have some acknowledgement "that the last time we did this it didn't turn out as expected." That said, Cox noted that pilots are very busy when coming out of LaGuardia and they will be occupied flying the plane.

"In all truth, I think other people will make more out of it than he will," Cox said. "He has become an aviation icon overnight for the absolutely phenomenal job that he did. But he's an airline pilot and there thousands upon thousands of extraordinarily skilled men and women that do this job every day."

Pilots Return to the Cockpit

When pilots survive a crash, Cox said, they almost always return to the cockpit.

Al Sinesky spent 38 years flying with the Air Force and American Airlines. While he was never in a crash, he did lose power in an engine more than once.

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