Carolinas Aviation Museum to be Renamed to Honor Captain ‘Sully’

In response to the museum's announcement, Captain "Sully" Sullenberger said he was glad Flight 1549 aircraft and artifacts would be preserved for all to see.

Charlotte’s Carolinas Aviation Museum will reopen its doors in 2023 with a new name honoring Captain Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III, the museum announced.

Sullenberger became a household name in January 2009, when he and first officer Jeffrey Skiles safely landed US Airways Flight 1549—an Airbus 320-200—in the Hudson River in New York City with 155 passengers and crew onboard, after the aircraft’s engines suffered catastrophic failure and in-flight shutdown following a series of bird strikes. 

“This Saturday, January 15, will mark 13 years since #Flight1549 changed the lives of passengers, crew members and first responders forever,” Sullenberger said in a tweet marking the anniversary.

Late last week, the Smithsonian affiliate museum announced it will feature a permanent exhibit honoring Sullenberger and crew of the flight that includes the “Miracle on the Hudson” airplane. 

The museum’s new name is expected to be formally announced before the end of 2022, a museum spokesperson told FLYING.

 “The new Museum will feature the story of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ and employ highly innovative exhibit projection technologies to engage visitors and help tell this remarkable story,” a museum spokesperson said. “The actual plane and rescued engines serve as the focal point of this famous story of heroism and survival while creating an understanding of what made this successful landing possible—split-second decision-making, crew experience and training, and innovative aircraft engineering and design.”

According to a museum spokesperson, personal stories from passengers and crew from Flight 1549 will be a centerpiece. The museum, which will be located at the site of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport historic W.P.A./Douglas Airport Hangar, will also feature a new main gallery, visitor center, plaza, and dozens of aircrafts and interactive cockpits, flight simulators, and historic artifacts. 

Officials say the new facility will establish the museum as the new premiere aviation destination of the South. “We’re thrilled to honor Captain Sully and the heroic ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ crew and cement our city’s place in aviation history,” Museum Board Chair Marc Oken said in a statement. 

Ric Elias, Flight 1549 crash survivor and CEO of Charlotte-based Red Ventures, personally donated $1 million in Sullenberger’s honor toward the museum’s re-opening alongside a $500,000 donation from Lonely Planet, a Red Ventures brand. 

“I am forever indebted to Captain Sully and the crew of US Airways Flight 1549 for my second chance at life, and, for 13 years, I have been determined to find a way to honor them,” Elias said. “Heroes are made long before the day they are called to action. This museum will serve as an enduring tribute to the preparation, courage and dedication of the captain and the entire crew.”

With Elias’ donation, the museum’s “Lift-Off Campaign” has raised more than $11 million towards a $25 million goal, according to museum officials. 

“On behalf of the crew and passengers of Flight 1549, and the rescuers and first responders, I am honored to have my name associated with this event that we all shared,” Sullenberger told FLYING on Monday. “I send my thanks to Flight 1549 passenger Ric Elias and all who led this effort to ensure the future of the Flight 1549 exhibit and the museum. I’m very glad that the Flight 1549 aircraft and other artifacts from the event are preserved for all to see.” 
Last month, the U.S. Senate confirmed Sullenberger as the ambassador for the U.S. on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal. Sullenberger was confirmed by voice vote December 2, becoming the 18th U.S. representative to the United Nations’ aviation standards-setting agency.


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