NEW YORK, N.Y. (WPIX) -- "Surreal" and "Shocking." It's understandable that the hero pilot who glided safely into the Hudson river last month, would use those words to describe the ordeal. He made his first public comments about the fateful flight to ESPN.
US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is still finding it all hard to believe. The crash and instant fame has hanged his life. Flight 1549 flew into a flock of geese, shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport on January 15. The pilots reportedly said they smelled "burning birds" and that the windscreen of the Airbus was "filled with big, dark brown birds" and soon after both engines cut out.
The veteran flier took over the controls and maneuvered the airplane around New York's skyscrapers to pull off a miracle landing on the water. Amazingly, all 150 passengers and crew members survived.
He said he was shocked when he realized that both engines were out. "It was very quiet as we worked, my co-pilot and I. We were a team. But to have zero thrust coming out of those engines was shocking the silence," he said.
Surveillance video and photos taken from witnesses, show the plane descending gracefully into the frigid river, then passengers and crew standing out on the wing's of the plane. Within minutes area ferry boats and rescue crews surrounded the singing airbus and rescued everyone. But the 58-year-old pilot didn't immediately evacuate with his passengers. Instead, he walked the length of the plane, twice, to make sure everyone made it out alive.
Susan O'Donnell, an American Airlines pilot who was a passenger on Flight 1549 described the scene to the Dallas Morning News, saying as the plane approached the water, the passengers "remained calm and almost completely quiet." O'Donnell also praised Sullenberger's leadership, saying he talked with passengers and crew after the landing and that he'd even remembered to take the aircraft logbook with him.
She said Sullenberger asked her to join the crew at the hotel, and that she accepted. When she realized that she had lost her wallet, "He immediately pulled out his wallet and gave me $20. His concern for me when he had so much else to worry about was amazing," O'Donnell said.
Sullenberger and his wife, Lori, said they've been opening heartfelt letters from well-wishers every night since the crash. "It allows both of us to express emotion about it all. We both sit there and cry."
The couple will appear on CBS's "60 Minutes" this Sunday night.