Hero Pilot Praised by Passengers, President Bush

C.B. Sullenberger, a pilot of 40 years, credited With saving 155 lives.

Jan. 16, 2008— -- Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who successfully ditched his US Airways jet in the Hudson River, won kudos today from President George W. Bush and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

While presenting citations to the emergency workers and ferry operators who rescued the passengers from the frigid waters off Manhattan, Bloomberg said today he planned to present Sullenberger with a key to city.

Bush called to praise Sullenberger, who is known to friends as "Sully" but to headline readers around the world as the "hero of the Hudson."

"It would appear that the pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure everybody got out," Bloomberg said of the veteran pilot and Air Force Academy graduate.

Passengers of the plane, who all escaped without injury, have also been singing pilot's praises.

"You've got to give it to the pilot. He made a hell of a landing," said Jeff Kolodjay, 31, a passenger.

Sullenberger, 57, has more than 40 years of flying experience and served as an air force fighter pilot and instructor.

Reached at her home in Danville, Calif., his wife, Lorraine Sullenberger, described her husband as a "pilot's pilot."

"He's very controlled and very professional," said Sullenberger. "We haven't actually talked a lot, but we're very proud."

"[My] husband has said over the years that it is highly unlikely for a pilot to ever have an incident in his career, let alone something like this ... I have said for a long time that he's a pilot's pilot and loves the art of the airplane," she said.

No stranger to safety and accident investigations, Sullenberger has assisted in several National Transportation Safety Board probes, served as safety chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association and founded an air safety company, Safety Reliability Methods, according to the company's Web site.

Sullenberger is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and received master's degrees from Purdue University and the University of Northern Colorado.

James Ray, a spokesman for the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, said he spoke with Sullenberger on Friday and described him as being "in good shape physically, mentally and in good spirits."

Sullenberger has flown planes for the company for 29 years.

"He was just very calm and cool, very relaxed, just very professional," Ray said.

The plane that Sullenberger landed in the Hudson River, an A-320 manufactured by Airbus, was carrying 150 passengers and six crew members, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Only 30 seconds after takeoff, at 3:26 p.m. ET, Sullenberger reported the plane had been struck by birds in both engines and said he wanted to return to LaGuardia Airport.

Controllers began giving him directions for return, but he requested landing clearance at the nearby Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. The tower reportedly lost contact soon after that last transmission.

Sullenberger made what ABCNews' Robin Roberts, who saw the crash from her apartment, called a "perfect water landing" into the frigid waters of the Hudson River off Manhattan.

Sullenberger is believed to have activated the plane's "ditching switch," a device that closes valves and openings on the bottom of the fuselage, preventing the plane from taking on water and allowing it to float.

"It is true the plane has a ditching switch, which closes the outflow valve and the avionics ventilation ports - in other words, those openings below what would be a theoretical float line," said Mary Anne Greczyn, a spokeswoman for Airbus.

Police, firefighters, the Coast Guard and NY Waterways ferries scooped passengers from the water just moments after the crash.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators are scouring the plane to determine if it was in fact a bird strike that led to the plane's loss of power.