1549 Pax, Crew, Revisit Aircraft

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Passengers who were thankful to have lived through it and an airline captain who became an instant celebrity because of it gathered around the battered hull of Airbus A320 N106US Sunday to celebrate the aircraft that changed their lives. The dented and gashed fuselage of the aircraft used for US Airways Flight 1549 from La Guardia to Charlotte on Jan. 15, 2009, arrived at the Carolinas Aviation Museum Friday and will go on permanent display there. At a private reception on Sunday Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, other members of the flight crew and some passengers gathered to remember that chilly winter afternoon when the aircraft hit a flock of geese and Sullenberger and his first officer Jeff Skiles put the airplane, carrying 155 people, in the Hudson River. Among the cabin crew was Doreen Welsh, who, with 38 years of patrolling the aisle, probably had the most time in the air of anyone on the flight. She told NY1 she thought she'd given her last safety demo when she heard Sullenberger tell the people in back to "brace for impact" over the PA. "Thirty-eight years, who hears that? And who lives through hearing that? I'm sure a lot of people in crashes, that's probably the last thing they ever hear," said Welsh. "I said prayers. I thought it was it."

Others shared similar stories and paid frank homage to the technology that made Sunday's event possible. "I think of this plane as our savior. Our piece of equipment that saved our lives," said passenger Beth McHugh. Others said the event created a "family" of survivors who keep in touch with one another. As for the aircraft, rather than the restoration that usually awaits new museum exhibits, 106US will undergo the opposite. Museum staff will put the plane in the same condition it was in when it was plucked out of the river and create a display that will allow visitors a glimpse of what it might have been like aboard the plane as it floated in the water. The interior has been cleaned and freed of mold that grew after the dunking.