Most plane crashes don't end with cheers of joy, but thanks to the quick thinking of Capt. Sullenberger, 155 souls were saved. From the time the plane hit the birds to its water landing, only 208 seconds passed.
Capt. Sullenberger says he spent his entire life preparing for these seconds.
"I didn't have time to learn what I needed to know," he says. "I had to have done hard work for decades, for tens of thousands of hours, to prepare for that moment."
Capt. Sullenberger says the day may have gone much differently without the help of the first responders, many of whom received thank-you notes from him after the water rescue.
"This was a team effort. It required not only First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, flight attendants Donna Dent, Sheila Dail and Doreen Welsh doing their parts, but all the first responders," Capt. Sullenberger says. "Had any part of that puzzle not been the same, we wouldn't have had as good a day as we did."
In October 2009, Capt. Sullenberger took to the skies again, and his return was marked by a reunion of sorts. A few passengers from Flight 1549 were on board—some in their original seats—and Jeffrey Skiles was once again his first officer. "To make it even better, Patrick Harten, the air traffic controller whose voice we've all heard on that tape, came into work early that day just to work our New York LaGuardia departure," he says.