Biden nominates ‘Miracle on Hudson’ hero Chesley Sullenberger as US global aviation ambassador

US President Joe Biden has nominated the former pilot who safely landed a malfunctioning passenger airliner in a river off Manhattan in 2009 to serve as ambassador to the UN aviation agency. 

Retired captain Sullenberger, known as Sully, was tapped to be the US envoy to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN agency responsible for developing standards and policies for global aviation. The ICAO headquarters is located in Montreal, Canada.

In 2009, Sullenberger was the captain of a US Airways jetliner that struck a flock of geese shortly after takeoff from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport. The plane quickly lost power in both of its engines, but Sullenberger managed to land the aircraft in the Hudson River, saving all 155 people on board.

The successful water landing, called the “miracle of the Hudson” by then-New York Governor David Paterson, made Sullenberger a national hero. He later pursued a career as an author, public speaker, and aviation expert on TV.

Sullenberger was portrayed by Tom Hanks in a 2016 Clint Eastwood movie that retold the story of the 2009 event.

During the highly contentious 2020 US presidential election, the former pilot appeared in a dramatic campaign ad that attacked Joe Biden’s opponent, former President Donald Trump. “All we have to do is vote him out,” he said in the ad produced by anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project.

Sullenberger wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that year, in which he defended Biden from criticism by Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump.

On Tuesday, Biden also nominated Thomas Nides, a former banker and State Department official under Barack Obama, to serve as an ambassador to Israel, and Ken Salazar, a former senator and Obama’s interior secretary, to serve as ambassador to Mexico.

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