Biden Chooses ‘Sully’ As His Pick For ICAO Ambassador Post


On Tuesday June 15, President Biden named Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger as his pick for the position of ambassador to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Sullenburger, who gained fame for his 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson” water landing, was one of nine nominees Biden announced for ambassador positions. ICAO is a Montreal-based agency of the United Nations charged with promoting and developing international air transport.

Sullenberger was a vocal critic of President Trump and supported Biden’s campaign. Featured in an ad paid for by the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, he said, “From my service as an Air Force officer and a fighter pilot, I knew that serving a cause greater than oneself is the highest calling. And it’s in that highest calling of leadership that Donald Trump has failed us so miserably.”

Like President Biden, Sullenberger also struggled with stuttering as a child, and wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times in January 2020 about his challenges.

Sullenberger retired from US Airways in 2010, the year after he and second officer Jeffrey Skiles skillfully landed their Airbus in the frigid January waters of the Hudson River abeam Manhattan. All 155 on board were rescued before the airliner sank. The A320 lost power in both engines after flying through a flock of geese shortly after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on a flight to Charlotte, North Carolina. Deciding the Airbus did not have enough altitude to glide to LaGuardia or make it to nearby Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, Sullenberger advised controllers, “We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. ‘Sullenberger was a vocal critic of President Trump and supported Biden’s campaign’

    Darn, I liked the guy and was prepared to give Uncle Joe a kudos for at least one appropriate appointment.

    Never mind. It’s still all politics.

  2. @Arthur Foyt. Your comment is confusing. Sully is most likely a Republican, so not sure what ‘blind political allegiance’ you refer to. The Lincoln Project was a Republican group that didn’t agree with Trump.

    • Excuse me, but that project formed just before the 2020 election and only ran pro-Biden adds. Calling them Republicans is like calling the patriot act “patriotic” or the affordable care act giving “affordable care”.

      It’s what people actually do; not the political names they use to deceive.

      • Call it what you like per Wikipedia: The Lincoln Project is an American political action committee (PAC) formed in late 2019 by former and present Republicans.

        • If you form a political action committee specifically to support Joe Biden, then the PAC is politically active for Joe Biden.

          Why don’t you use your brain and your keyboard to at least find out where their funding came from?

          People who are too lazy or biased or fearful just accept what they are told. That’s why I said “welcome to China 2.0”.

          • You confuse political party membership with hyper-partisanship. Blindly supporting everyone in your party is not a virtue. I am a Democrat, yet in 2000 I voted for Michael Bloomberg for NYC mayor because the Democratic candidate, Mark Green, was unacceptable in my opinion.

            The GOP had an unacceptable candidate in 2020 so a group of rational Republicans supported the other guy whom they knew well from his tenure in public service and had a resume that qualified him for the job. They are still Republicans and they likely voted for Republicans in other races. What do you not understand about this?

          • Really? It was anti-Trump not pro-Biden. There is a difference. Mickey Mouse could have been the Dem nominee and they would have backed him. But since you’re so correct, I’ll just concede cause you’re louder and more boisterous so you must be right.

          • Arthur, you’re original comment was about blind political allegiance. Supporting the former POTUS simply because he’s the Republican standard bearer would be an act of exactly what you were ranting against in the first place

    • True, but they were confused – they managed to get Kamala ‘jefe’ Harris elected, with many Marxist notions.

      Including not defending you against initiation of force, which is the one thing that stops your human means of living – your mind. Aviators are especially vulnerable.

      Yes, Biden has started better than expected on foreign policy.

  3. Daniel, supporting the party of slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and anti-American policies is hardly a platform worthy to criticize Trump as “unacceptable”. You make me laugh.

      • There is a huge difference between not supporting someone vs. actively campaigning for the other guy. That’s how you get politically appointed. Basic payback.

  4. As someone who has felt some of the annoying operational impositions placed on us by ICAO, I believe ICAO will benefit from the good down to earth influence which Sully is sure to offer. Prior to becoming known for the 2009 Hudson water landing, he was active in safety promotion, accident investigation and authoring an FAA advisory circular – activities which reached well beyond his day job perch in the cockpit. He comes from a place where all of us whose careers have been line operational would like to see influencers in high places come from. His recognition that causes greater than oneself are higher callings is the ultimate in attributes and one which benefits us all.

  5. Well stated John.

    As for some of the other posts, I guess it isn’t any longer acceptable to be a member of a political party without stricktly voting the party line. Your either with us or against us mentality. Blue and red states. Overall divisiveness permeating our society.
    God help this country and its sharply polarized political views. How about getting back to being Americans and respecting one another as such.

    • Agreed RS, there just doesn’t seem to be any middle ground any longer. Hyper-partisanship is the only acceptable course – you’re either 100% in one camp, or you’re the most terrible things in the world described for the other camp. I hope we can move past all of this tribalism at some point

      • LOL, these appointments are ALWAYS political; anyone thinking that that has suddenly changed under “the party” is doubly naive.

  6. Sully is a raging Democrat.. Landing a crippled jetliner on water, is completely different, then political office.. He more then likely will do very little, and be praised by the media regardless..

    • Well, Donald Trump was really a hawkish Democrat, IMO – like Scoop Jackson from WA state years ago.

      The big benefit from Trump was willingness to defend our butts, overseas such as North Korea and domestically such as in violent Portland OR where local politicians objecting to the federal government defending its buildings there. That’s more into the Republican realm. Some might call his a RINO.

  7. Sully was an aviation safety consultant before the miracle on the Hudson. He is a reasonable sensible well spoken man that will represent the US and aviation safety very well! I perceive this as a very good appointment that shows the International aviation community that America is ready to take a seat at the table again after a 4 year absence.

  8. A. Ambassadorships ARE political appointments. Always have been. Trump’s were no different. So let’s not act all surprised that Sully was a Biden supporter and then got picked for this post.
    B. The real question is: Is the appointee qualified. And yes… Sully is actually incredibly qualified for the job, which is more than can be said about most political appointments, especially those of Trump, who picked mostly loyal morons to surround him and pretty much fired all the non-morons.
    C. If you read everything written about and by Sully, you can’t possibly think badly of the man. He is a tremendous ambassador (small a) for aviation and for honor and goodness. If your love of Trump blinds you to this, then that’s sad, but that’s on you, not him.
    D. Many of us including Sully, believe that Trump was not (and is not) a Republican, but in fact performed a masterful hostile takeover of that political party for his own personal and financial benefit. And in the process sold out most of our country’s best values—and was/is a threat to our very democratic republic itself going forward. You can disagree with this assessment, but you should not question the sincerity or the goodness of someone like Sully who believes it—strongly enough to stick his neck out in that masterful LP video indicting Trump! Watch that video! That took courage for sure, because for sure Trumpsters now throw eggs (or worse) at him and his family everywhere he/they go. It would’ve been much easier and more profitable for Sully to stay quiet and keep cashing checks from people and organizations of all political stripes like most celebrities do. But he took a stand for what he believed was right and vital for our country. Agree or disagree, that took guts.
    D. Let’s return these pages to non-political aviation topics. There need to be a few places of respite from the constant Red-Blue / Trump-anti Trump angry debate. And this should be one of those places.
    E. Good luck Sully! And thanks for your lifelong honorable career that reflects well on all of us aviators and human beings, no matter our particular political stripe.

    • Wow Derek. Great advice. Let’s return these pages to non-political aviation topics. What happened to you with your Trump ranting and raving based on fake news.

    • Well said, Derek. I read Avweb for aviation related content. If I want to hear/read about political teeth gnashing, I will tune into Fox & Friends.

    • Derek, nobody reads long-winded replies like that. It only took reading section A to dismiss everything else you wrote, whatever that was.

  9. Sully should tell ICAO that pilots should look out the window on climb out so they don’t run into flocks of geese.

  10. Considering almost all other countries that are ICAO members are openly hostile to general aviation, I would have preferred someone with a GA background for this appointment. Nothing against Capt Sully, I don’t know what GA experience he currently has.

    • Considering he is an accomplished sail plane pilot (a factor he credits for his ability to glide successfully to the Hudson), I feel comfortable that he understands the issues facing GA.

  11. He also flies his own Merlin, I believe,so he’s a PILOT, ok? None of us is perfect, and you can love or hate the man’s input in 2020 electoral politics, but you can’t reasonably deny he is an extremely sharp and accomplished guy. (Probably way too smart for politics OR aviation!) Finally, dissing him or his first officer for running their Airbus into the geese is just trumpily asinine. (“I like the soldiers who didn’t get captured.”) Sigh.

    • Love your personal commentaries like asinine or
      loyal morons to surround him and pretty much fired all the non-morons from your prior commentary on Sully.
      Nice commentary Derek.
      That’s really sticking to the subject.
      And it’s not hard to spot a flock of geese. Jeff was flying the plane. Sully should have had his eyes outside. It’s true he might have not seen the geese, but they were in plain sight.
      What I do give Sully a hero’s credit for is he went thru the plane checking to make sure everyone was off. And while he did that the plane could have sunk at any moment.
      And if someone called you a moron, Derek I would be object to that also.

  12. Biden is, was, and always will be a career politician. All of his appointments are politically motivated. Occasionally, we the people get lucky when a decision that is purely politically motivated results in a great choice. Unfortunately, we the people have become so polarized politically, we cannot seem to see through the politically motivated process. Our reactions appear to be solely based on Red vs Blue.

    Once in a while we the people end up with a good appointment. However, our political polarization does not allow for acknowledging or in many cases even recognizing an outstanding appointment. We operate with political blinders on. Red proponents cannot accept any Blue appointments. Blue proponents cannot accept any Red appointments. Any acceptance of the opposing party’s appointments is viewed as disloyalty, lacking total allegiance to one’s party stated platform. Allegiance to the party platform is demanded. Anything less than full allegiance is now considered treason on one extreme, or at least un-American on the other.

    If we take our political blinders off, examine Sully’s credentials, his work history, performance, and involvement in military, commercial, and general aviation, Sully is an outstanding choice for ICAO representation. No matter how he got the call.

    We need to quit being “sore winners”. Sully has the creds. I believe he will do a good job. And in this case doing a good job will be very beneficial for us as well as the Biden administration. In this case Joe gets a win, and so do we. What’s wrong with “winning” once in a while? We cannot win because Joe or Donald wins? Really?

  13. It’s just the manifestations of fear and power again, in this case in the political realm that keep many today locked into ‘fake’ competitions of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – tedious distractions from the hard work of self-discipline and effort toward the goodwill resultant from compassion for others.

    ‘We need to quit…’ also describes the hardest to gain yet I believe most influential miracle unknown to man – a changed consciousness. So before ‘we’ can be used, it has to begin at ‘I’.

    Nonetheless, I share your frustration, hoping the current state of affairs doesn’t have to go to its bottom. Yet, since a worldwide, deathly virus barely slowed the descent in altitude, I’m not very optimistic.

    And I think Capt. Sully is an excellent choice for us all.