Victory tour

It’s rare that a big buildup to a TV news interview lives up to the hype, but Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of US Airways flight 1549, and his crew did not disappoint on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes.

The highlight of the interview was Sullenberger’s assessment of what had to happen to avoid calamity.

“I needed to touch down with the wings exactly level. I needed to touch down with the nose slightly up. I needed to touch down at a descent rate that was survivable. And I needed to touch down just above our minimum flying speed but not below it. And I needed to make all these things happen simultaneously.”

This is the aviation equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your belly, and this is what happens when it doesn’t go right.

But after listing the things that he had to do, Sullenberger delivered the “money quote.”

“I was sure I could do it.”

Sullenberger and his crew visited the TV morning news shows today, and couldn’t escape many of the silly questions for which the hosts are famous.

The CBS Early Show tried mightily to one-up the superior interview on 60 Minutes, by forcing “emotional” reunions between passengers and the crew.

“How important were the rescuers,” was one question.

“Do you think you’ll all be friends for life? Is there life before Flight 1549 and after?” host Maggie Rodriguez asked at a particularly awkward moment.

“Did you see any change in the expression on his face,” Good Morning America‘s Diane Sawyer asked Sullenberger’s co-pilot.

“I wasn’t looking at his face,” the co-pilot replied.

Good Morning America, scored the biggest “get” of the morning, however, and it didn’t come from Sullenberger or his team. It came from a passenger’s camera phone, the first image of what the January incident looked like from the wings of the downed airplane.

Later on Monday, the crew got the “keys to the city” from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.


(Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

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