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Pilot Sullenberger reunited with Miracle Plane

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | For the first time since the historic splash landing in the Hudson River in 2009, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger on Friday reboarded the Airbus 320 whose wings carried him to aviation fame. "It's a familiar place," Sullenberger said after dropping back into the left seat on the flight deck of the US Airways jetliner now an attraction at the Carolinas Aviation Museum beside Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Sullenberger's visit was part of a fund raising flight for an aviation organization in Florida. He had just helped pilot to Charlotte a vintage, prop driven Eastern Air Lines DC-7 restored by Historical Flight Foundation in Miami. In the gloom of powerless fuselage aboard the "Miracle on the Hudson" plane, Sullenberger recalled the hectic events of the Jan 15, 2009 water landing after geese were ingested into the engines. After stepping out of the cockpit, Sullenberger said, he began directing passengers out onto the rafts and wings. "I was asking people to come forward because there was still room for more folks on the rafts." When it appeared everyone had evacuated, Sullenberger said, he and co-pilot Jeff Skiles walked the length of the cabin, pulling up seat cushions, life vests, blankets and coats, then pitched them out the doors to passengers huddling on the wings and in rafts. Then, with water rising in the rear of the plane, Sullenberger said he made one more walk, a slow one down the aisle. "I was looking at every row to make certain no one was left inside," he said. "I was just determined I was not going to let anyone perish now." "I went down here, he said," gesturing to the economy section of the cabin, "and called out, Is anyone left? Come forward !" He repeated the commands all the way back, then came forward for the last time. Skiles was waiting for him outside the cockpit. Skiles went into the front raft and Sullenberger followed. Also on the flight from Miami, and allowed about the fuselage for the first time since the crash was Denise Lockie of Charlotte, who sat in seat 2C in first class on Flight 1549. "It is eerie," said Lockie, a Staples executive who flies frequently. She stood by her old seat and carefully studied the first-class compartment. "This is where I could have," then she paused, "left. It is interesting." After the crash, the airliner was closed during the National Transportation Safety Board investigation. It arrived at the Charlotte museum this summer aboard a flat-bed truck, attracting tens of thousands spectators along the way. Two overhead bin doors in the rear have been torn from their latches by the impact and some of the oxygen mask containers remain hanging open from the crash. Switches and controls in the cockpit are frozen in the same position they were in when the plane was abandoned Restoration of the jetliner is continuing, but it will be persevered in its post-crash condition, said David Rehmar, a former US Airways maintenance training specialist who is coordinating the project. Sullenberger, now retired from the airline and writing a second book, continues to be a celebrity. Runways operations were temporarily halted at Charlotte Douglas as the DC-7 came in Friday, a feather-touch landing by Stiles (after passengers sang him "Happy Birthday," his 52nd). Sullenberger and Stiles spent the week in Miami learning how to pilot a DC-7 for the flight. Oil pat-pat-pattered from each of the plane's four engines after it arrived at the aviation museum, Sullenberger noticed on a walk-around. "That's a good thing,' he said, with authority. "Means the engines are full of oil." At 4 p.m. the DC-7, first put into service in 1958, took off to return to Miami. A minute after liftoff, one of the four engines failed and the plane circled back to Charlotte-Douglas where it was grounded overnight. Sullenberger, who did not make the return trip, wasn't at the controls this time.

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