Two years after the "Miracle on the Hudson," Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger says he's developed an even deeper appreciation for the lifesaving event.
"As time has gone by, I have become able to appreciate more the enormity of what happened that day and what didn't happen that day for all of us," he told the Associated Press last week at his Northern California home.
Saturday was the second anniversary of the splashdown, when Sullenberger and first officer Jeff Skiles ditched US Airways Flight 1549 into the frigid waters off Manhattan after the jet hit a flock of geese.
All 155 passengers and crew members were safely rescued, and Sullenberger became a hero in an event that captured the world's imagination.
The Danville pilot, 59, retired from the Arizona-based airline last year and is writing a book about leadership to follow "Highest Duty," a memoir of his life and the events surrounding Flight 1549. He also has become a sought-after speaker and a consultant on aviation safety.
The Republican Party asked Sullenberger to run for Congress last year, but he declined.
"I'm a pilot not a politician," he said.
The Carolinas Aviation Museum is buying the damaged plane, which was headed to Charlotte, N.C., from the insurance company that owns it.
Sullenberger vividly recalled the moment the Airbus A320 struck the birds, upending what began as a routine takeoff from New York's LaGuardia Airport.
"As the thrust failed, it felt like the bottom of the world fell out," he said. "It was shocking. After years of having everything work almost all the time, this was instantly the challenge of a lifetime."
Sullenberger said he was able to "essentially synthesize a lifetime of experience and training to solve this novel problem" and "felt as if the weight of the universe had been lifted" off him when he learned that everyone was safe.
The pilot, who is married and has two daughters, said he believes the story of the flight held the media's attention for so long because "it happened at a time in the world's history when we needed it."
"This gave people hope," he said. "It made people see when we work together and we have our values straight what we can accomplish."