Famous “Miracle On The Hudson” Pilot Takes VIP Ride in Thunderbirds F-16

“Sully” Soars with Thunderbirds.

One of the most celebrated pilots in history, former U.S. Airways airline Captain Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger, returned to his Air Force roots when he took the rear seat in a U.S. Air Force F-16D Fighting Falcon for a VIP flight at Travis AFB in Solano County, California last week.

The Thunderbirds were at Travis Air Force Base in California for the Wings Over Solano Air Show during the May 5-6 weekend.

Former Capt. Sullenberger flew as back-seater in Thunderbird 7, a two-seat F-16D with Thunderbird Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh as pilot in command. Lt. Col. Walsh of Long Island, New York is a 2002 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He has flown as an instructor at the European F-16 Weapons School, Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands. Lt. Col. Walsh also has over 500 hours of combat flying experience.

Former Capt. Sullenberger is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former F-4D Phantom II pilot. He has also flown as the Blue Force mission commander in Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III and his F-4D Phantom II (Credit: Sullenberger)

Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is, of course, best known for his remarkable airmanship on Jan. 15, 2009 when he experienced a rare double engine outage due to birdstrike in an Airbus A320 operating as U.S. Airways flight 1549. As pilot in command of the flight he declared an emergency and made a first-ever “dead stick” (no power) landing in the Hudson River with 155 passengers and crew on board. There were no fatalities or serious injuries in the emergency ditching.

U.S. Airways Flight 1549 after successful emergency water landing in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. (Associated Press)

The accident has been widely publicized in media and “Captain Sully” rightfully lauded as a heroic figure who personifies the cool temperament and technical professionalism of experienced aviators.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds provide publicity flights to noteworthy persons and key influencers as a way to spread the message of pride, professionalism and dedication about the hundreds of thousands of Airmen serving at home and abroad and to inspire everyone to achieve excellence in their endeavors. In 2012, “Sully” flew with the Blue Angels.


About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.