After that flight -- dubbed "The Miracle on the Hudson" -- Sullenberger has become a celebrity, appearing on TV shows and writing a book, "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters." He was reportedly paid $2.5 million to $3 million for the book.
After a few months off, Sullenberger returned to US Airways in a new role consulting on safety management for the airline and flying the occasional flight. In October, just before the release of his book, Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, who was with him for the Hudson crash flight, took to the skies again together. The pair flew from Charlotte, N.C., to New York in the morning and then returned together in a trip called their "reunion flight."
Passengers aboard those flights described the mood as "jubilant," with everybody clapping and screaming after Sullenberger welcomed them on board.
Sullenberger quickly became a poster child for the ideal pilot, somebody with years of experience and extensive safety training. He went to Congress to testify at a hearing about regional pilots and the amount of hours they have to work and number of years of experience they have.
When two Northwest Airlines pilots were out of contact with air traffic controllers for an unusually long amount of time, more than one person commented that it wouldn't have happened if Sully was at the helm.
Sullenberger has tried to balance that fine line between capitalizing on his celebrity and still playing the role of the humble hero. On a "People of the Year" TV special, he joked that his handling of the disabled jetliner brought him "rock star sex." And during his reunion flight, he told a throng of reporters gathers that the crash happened "at a time when people needed to know that good could still be done in the world."
Sullenberger, now 59, joined US Airways in 1980, when it was known as PSA Airlines.
US Airways announced today that Flight Attendant Doreen Welsh, who was also working on the Hudson crash flight, will also retire today. Welsh, 59, joined US Airways in 1970, when it was known as Allegheny Airlines. She has 39 years of experience with the airline. Both Sullenberger and Welsh are based out of US Airways' Charlotte hub, although Sullenberger lives in California.
"I am extremely proud of Captain Sullenberger and Doreen for their quick thinking and courageous actions on January 15, 2009," US Airways Chairman and CEO Doug Parker said in a statement. "They exemplify the professionalism and training US Airways' more than 10,000 pilots and flight attendants demonstrate thousands of times every day across our airline. We will miss them and thank them for all they have given to our customers during their years of service with our airline."