'Sully': 5 years after the 'Miracle on the Hudson'

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News
Former Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger talks to the media in front of the US Airways flight 1549 aircraft at the Carolina Aviation Museum, Saturday, June 11, 2011, in Charlotte, N.C. The plane that made a miraculous landing on the Hudson River two years ago will be displayed in the museum in Charlotte. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
.

View gallery

It's been five years since Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after the plane hit a flock of geese and lost power — saving the lives of all 155 people on board and making "Sully" a household name.

Sullenberger is in New York this week to commemorate the anniversary of the "Miracle on the Hudson." So just what has he been up to since the heroic landing? He writes and speaks about aviation safety and provides consulting services.

Sullenberger, who retired from US Airways in 2010, told the "CBS Evening News" he's concerned that the airline industry is getting complacent when it comes to safety. "We'll forget what's really at stake when we fly and how many near misses there are every day and how many things have to go right in this complex system to keep every flight safe every day," he said.

The 62-year-old, who serves as CBS News' resident aviation and safety expert, says he's disappointed that the FAA has not adopted any of the reccommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board as a result of its investigation into his historic emergency landing.

"One of them — such a common-sense one you'd think it would've been adopted immediately — would be to include life vests for every passenger on domestic flights," Sullenberger said, "and not just seat cushions for flotation."

Sullenberger, who lives Danville, Calif., with his wife, Lorrie, and two daughters (ages 19 and 21), weighs in whenever there is a plane crash, like the Asiana Airlines flight that cartwheeled at San Francisco International Airport in July.

"The pilot must always be mentally engaged," Sullenberger said.

He has also recently taken up a new cause: making America's hospitals safer.

"It's applying all the things we've learned for decades in aviation and making them transferable to medicine, where the need is so great," Sullenberger told the Contra Costa Times.

According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Patient Safety, more than 200,000 people die from preventable medical errors each year. "[That's] equivalent to three airline passenger planes crashing a day with no survivors," he said.

One thing Sullenberger and his supporters are pushing for: a "checklist manifesto" for doctors similar to the ones pilots use.

"I guess I'm the eternal optimist," he said. "I think in our society, as with every other crisis it has faced, whether it's slavery or seat belt use or smoking, we eventually do the right thing. The question is when. In 20 years, when we've lost 4 million more people to preventable deaths? My vote is to do it now."

View Comments (526)