WASHINGTON – The crew of the US Airways plane that landed in New York's Hudson River has asked the media to back off while the accident is being investigated.
Flight 1549's captain, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, first officer and co-pilot Jeff Skiles, and flight attendants Sheila Dail, Doreen Welsh and Donna Dent said in a joint statement Monday they want the media to "respect their desire to refrain from participating in interviews until further notice" while the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the accident.
The crew said they "wish to offer their sincere thanks and appreciation for the overwhelming support, praise and well wishes they have received from the public around the world since the events of last Thursday."
They said they are willing to do media interviews "when the time is right."
The statement was released by the US Airline Pilots Association — the US Airways pilots' union — and the Association of Flight Attendants.
The whole crew has been lauded as heroes since Thursday's accident, in which there were no fatalities. In particular, the media has been clamoring to interview Sullenberger, whose skill and quick-thinking have been roundly praised. The veteran pilot had scheduled what was to be his first public interview for Monday with NBC's "Today," but canceled at the request of his union.
Stephen Bradford, president of the pilots association, said he asked Sullenberger not to talk to the media because the pilots association has "interested party" status with the NTSB.
NTSB spokeswoman Bridget Serchak said Sullenberger was free to give interviews if he wished.
Sullenberger released a statement deferring to the union's advice. "The Sullenbergers continue to thank their many well-wishers for the incredible outpouring of support," the statement said.
The pilot was invited to attend President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday, according to the mayor of his hometown, Danville, Calif.
Sullenberger reported the Airbus 320 had run into birds and lost power in both engines moments after taking off from LaGuardia Airport. Unable to return to LaGuardia or to reach Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, he told safety investigators he chose to glide the plane to a river landing to avoid the likely catastrophe that would have followed if it had crashed in a densely populated area.