Sullenberger: Cuts driving out best pilots

February 24, 2009 5:31:54 PM PST
The hero pilot from Danville who landed his damaged plane on the Hudson River told lawmakers Tuesday that experienced pilots may be a thing of the past soon.SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

Capt. Sully Sullenberger testified before a House subcommittee Tuesday about the safety lessons that were learned in the incident.

"People do not survive landing on the Hudson River and I thought it was his own death sentence. I believed at the moment I was going to be the last person to talk to anyone on that plane alive," recalled air traffic controller Patrick Harten who spoke publically for the first time Tuesday.

But, with Danville's Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger at the controls the plane landed in one piece and all 155 people onboard survived.

Sully says it was about experience.

He told ABC7's Dan Ashley in a recent interview that he would use this hearing to lobby for his profession.

"I think that I have been selected by circumstance to be the temporary spokesperson for my profession. And, I am determined to make as much good come of this as I possibly can," he said.

He did just that in a Capitol hearing room Tuesday and he received a standing ovation. He is a national hero.

Sully says the airlines have been hit by an economic tsunami and that management has used airline employees like ATM's.

"My pay has been cut 40 percent. My pension like most airlines' pensions has been terminated and replaced by a PBGC guarantee worth only pennies on the dollar," Sully explained.

Sullenberger said he has taken a second job as a consultant to make ends meet.

"It's important to underscore that the terms of our employment have changed dramatically from when I began my career leading to an untenable financial situation for pilots and their families," he explained.

Sully's co-pilot says if experienced pilots leave, it could mean negative consequences for the public.

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