'Miracle on the Hudson' pilot Sully Sullenberger talks fame, duty with ABC7's Dan Ashley

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Friday, October 14, 2016
Sully Sullenberger talks fame, duty with ABC7's Dan Ashley
A Bay Area man turned hero known across the nation - Captain Sully Sullenberger - is talking to ABC7 News about what life is like years after the "Miracle on the Hudson."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- One of the hottest movies to hit theaters in months takes the amazing story of a Bay Area man from your television to the big screen.

PHOTOS: A look back at the 'Miracle on the Hudson'

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An Airbus 320 US Airways aircraft that crashed into the Hudson River was towed to the west side of Manhattan for further inspection.
AP Photo/ Frank Franklin II

"Sully," starring Tom Hanks, dramatizes not only the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson," but the untold story of what happened after Captain Sully Sullenberger landed that plane on the water. The landing was one wild ride-- and so is everything that's happened to Sully since.

Dan: "Pilot, author, consultant, speaker, now a movie star. Come on!"

Sully: "Who would have thought it? Never in a million normal lifetimes would any of this have happened."

What happened is an incredible journey turning an unknown airline pilot into an instant celebrity and an American hero, all in 208 seconds. Remember that tower conversation? It's as chilling as the river that was about to become a landing strip.

Controller: "Cactus 1529, turn right 280, you can land at Teterboro."

Sully: "We can't do it."

Controller: "Okay, which runway would you like at Teterboro?

Sully: "We're gonna be in the Hudson."

Seconds later, they were. The improbable water landing is dramatized in the new movie directed by Clint Eastwood, staring Hanks as Sully.

Dan: "Did you know at the time?"

Sully: "Yes. That night I called home from the hotel in New York and called Lorrie here in the Bay Area and said, 'I think our lives have changed forever.'"

Decades in the cockpit prepared Sully to land in the Hudson, but there was no training for what happened afterward.

First there was a phone call from President George Bush. Then, days later, there was an invitation from the incoming president, Barack Obama, to the inauguration. And then came every honor and experience imaginable from throwing out the first pitch at a San Francisco Giants game, to the Super Bowl, to Grand Marshall of the Tournament of Roses Parade.

And of course all of the TV interviews including me, his second after sitting down with Katie Couric.

Dan: "You were not entirely comfortable in front of the camera."

Sully: "No, this was a huge leap of faith, this was a huge stretch for me.

Dan: "You've become comfortable."

Sully: "I have, it's amazing what you can learn to do."

Including acting. Sully went well beyond his comfort zone on Jimmy Kimmel recently. In costume and in character as Tom Hanks looked on.

Dan: "Did you have fun?"

Sully: "I did, we had a lot of fun and we had to keep it secret."

In the years since the miracle on the Hudson, Sully has made the most of the many opportunities that have come his way. Financial rewards, of course, but also the chance to lobby for improved airline safety.

Dan: "What is the first thing that needs to change?"

Sully: "They have to understand and remember that administrative decisions, certainly budget decisions, have safety implications."

Dan: "You have a different platform now and a different ability to focus light on some of these causes that must be an enormous privilege."

Sully: "It is and it is also an obligation. We are able to support them in much larger and more effective ways than we ever could before."

Finally, from the man who spent decades seeing the country from 30,000 feet, Sully is now observing it now at sea level.

Dan: "Are you concerned when you see what's happening in our country?"

Sully: "As concerned as I've ever been in my life."

Dan: "Really, why?"

Sully: "So much is at stake."

But Sully is an optimist; one who believes deeply in this country and all that it stands for.

As for what's next, that's hard to predict.

Everything that's happened since he landed flight 1549 safely on the water has been beyond anything he could have ever imagined.

But one thing is clear-- the story of the "Miracle on the Hudson" and the man who pulled it off continues to resonate, including now, at the movies.