Sullenberger: "Miracle" plane a part of history
After seven days traveling from Newark, N.J. to North Carolina, the plane made famous by its miraculous landing on the Hudson River in January 2009 reached reach its final gate Friday -- the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte. "The Early Show" talked with pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and some of his passengers about that miraculous day, the effect it had on their lives, and how they feel about the plane's final destination.
Passenger Mark Hood said he was "convinced" that he and his fellow passengers were dead that day.
Steve O'Brien, who sat in seat 15C on Flight 1549, said the experience was "surreal."
He added, "But at the same time, it's the most real feeling that I've ever had. Planes don't land in rivers. But ours did."
Now retired and a CBS News Aviation and Safety Expert, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger also reflected on the day.
He said it's interesting how passengers identify each other by where they were sitting on the plane.
"(Seating) to some extent determined what their experience was like that day," he said.
Laura Zych said during the ascent out of LaGuardia Airport, she heard one of the passengers sitting in a window seat say the plane was on fire.
Zych recalled, "I thought 'oh my goodness...OK.'"
O'Brien said he was immensely sad.
He said, "I have two kids and I was immensely sad that I wasn't going to see them get older."
"I thought 'This is so strange,'" Zych said. "'I am on this plane and I am going to die alone.'"
Hood said when they hit the water he didn't think the plane would stay together.
He said, "Then we bounced and hit it a second time and bled off so much speed I thought 'we might have a chance here, we might really have a chance to live through this.'"
Sullenberger said, "I think many of us do think of our lives in the terms of there's life before 1549 and a slightly different life after 1549."
Zych said, "It's a good check, OK, in your last moments, 'What really was important?' It wasn't how you were spectacular and how you did a great job in that last meeting, or how you make this much money, or any of that, it was, 'I wish I could call my family,' or 'see my family and tell them that I love them.'"
Hood said since the plane landing he has seen his life as a "commission and bonus."
"It's that added extra plus that we get and it started that minute with my family when I put my arms around them," he said.
Fellow passenger Vicki Barnhard said when she saw her kids for the first time she burst out in tears of joy.
"I don't know any parent who wouldn't react the way I did," she said.
O'Brien said, "I look at that plane sometimes - pictures of it - and think I can't believe I was on that plane and got out of it."
Sullenberger said it will be "wonderful" to see the plane again.
"You know, it did its job that day, too," he said. "And I'm very happy that it's going to be displayed to the public and especially that it's going to be displayed intact."
Barnhard said her boarding pass is still somewhere on the plane.
She said, "I'm hoping as I go through the artifacts, that might be something I get back."
O'Brien said the last time he touched the plane was when he was jumping out of it with a seat cushion.
"It's going to be wild to touch it again," he said.
Zych said, "I don't' know if I'll ever have an opportunity to sit in my seat, but I think about those things, and you know, what it would be like to sit in 17D again."
Sullenberger said the plane is part of history.
He said, "A part of a very good story. And I'm glad people will have a chance to see it up close and personally."
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