Tom Hanks stars as Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who safely landed his plane in the Hudson River, saving the lives of 155 crew and passengers.


WEST HOLLYWOOD — The nation was obsessed with Captain Chesley Sullenberger after the pilot astoundingly landed a US Airways jet on the Hudson River in 2009, with nary a life lost. But there are seven things you probably don't know about the national hero.

1. He originally met Tom Hanks at an Oscar party

This was way before Sully the movie (in theaters Friday), just a few weeks after the incident. "I asked him, 'How are you handling all of this (attention)?' " says Hanks, who plays Sullenberger. "And (he) said, 'It’s a little bit surreal, but enjoyable to a certain degree.' That’s a pretty good description of celebrity."

2. But Sully got the best advice on fame from Harrison Ford

The two met at an aviation benefit. Ford's advice? "Wherever you go, walk purposefully, like you’re on a mission to get there."

3. He’s made peace with being called a national hero

"I’ve gotten over it," he says with a smile. "I made an intellectual compromise. I decided I wouldn’t accept (that title) and take it on as my own mantle, but I would accept graciously their gift of gratitude."


Clint Eastwood directs and Tom Hanks plays Captain Chesley Sullenberger in the new movie 'Sully.' The real Sullenberger helped finesse the specifics in the retelling of his successful landing of Flight 1549.

4. He actually got his luggage back

The famed pilot's luggage was retrieved from the partially submerged plane, which was dragged out from the Hudson and is now on display at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte. "The karmic version of this story is that the only people who didn't get their belongings back were the ones who tried to take it out in the river with them, and other passengers said, 'Throw that away!' " Sullenberger says.

"The airline hired a reclamation company to get our stuff (and) dry it out," he says. "To keep the stuff from getting funky, they put dryer sheets in everything, so when you open this box, it’s all pristine. My phone charger still worked."

5. Sully's ring got special treatment in the movie

Director Clint Eastwood says "a big mistake" was made when the props department gave Hanks a gold Air Force Academy ring (Sullenberger's ring is white gold). "So we had to go into visual effects and bleach out the gold gold and make it a white gold," Eastwood says.

6. He still won't run for office

The GOP asked Sullenberger to run for Congress in 2010. He declined and insists it's not in the cards. "It’s nice to be thought of in that way, (but) I certainly wouldn’t want to put my family through that experience," he says.

"You look too honest," Eastwood says.

"I have quite a bully pulpit now," Sullenberger says. "It’s a really important job to be an advocate for the safety of the traveling public. And I’m not done yet."

7. There's no special treatment from the TSA

Hanks puts it out there first: "True or false, Sully, admit it now: Can you not walk into any airport and say 'Hey, I’m Sully Sullenberger — anybody got a plane I can fly?' "

"Absolutely not!" says the pilot, who retired from commercial flying in 2010. In airport security, "I go through the same thing everybody else does."

Hanks mock-shakes his head. "What’s the point of pulling off a forced water landing if you've still got to go through baggage handling?"

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