Sunday, January 25, 2009

From combined dispatches

DANVILLE, Calif. | Hundreds of hometown revelers gathered on the Town Green on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the homecoming of the man who piloted a disabled Airbus A320 safely into the Hudson River after it had taken off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City, saving the lives of all 155 people on board.

US Airways Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his family were greeted by hundreds of friends and neighbors, celebrating his feat with music from a high school marching band, a bagpipe player, and an Air Force honor guard.

“Everybody is very festive,” organizer Greg Gilbert said. “It’s a nice day for a celebration. The grass is half full, the press is here, and there’s no rain.”

Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich called the homecoming “a unique event in the town of Danville’s history, and a unique event for our country. This is a true hero’s welcome. If there is any doubt what you define a hero as, this man is the hero.”

Mr. Sullenberger, who lives in this San Francisco Bay Area suburb, glided Flight 1549 to an emergency river landing on Jan. 15 after both of the plane’s engines were disabled following a collision with a flock of birds.

Danville resident Chris Twirbutt said: “I think it´s something to be very proud of, and you know, he should be commended for what he did, and I think it´s a great thing.”

Mr. Sullenberger attended the inauguration of President Obama on Tuesday, and the family returned to California last week. Katie Couric landed the first interview with Mr. Sullenberger and his crew. It is scheduled to be shown on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Feb. 8.

On Friday, the battered, twisted left engine of the US Airways plane that crash-landed in the Hudson was recovered after an eight-day struggle to find the wreckage and pull it from the murky water.

Using a large, floating crane, salvage crews gently set the engine on a barge. Shards of metal and wiring hung from the engine, and a large portion of the outer shell appeared to be missing as it was lifted from the river bottom, 65 feet below the surface.

Immediately after the engine was set down, National Transportation Safety Board investigators began documenting and photographing it as part of their probe.

New York Police Department and New Jersey State Police harbor officers working with a federal sonar expert on Tuesday located an object 16 feet long and 8 feet wide on the river floor, near where Flight 1549 made its emergency landing. Divers confirmed Wednesday that the object was the Airbus A320’s engine.

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