NEW YORK – Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger took to the skies in New York City Thursday for the first time since January's heroic Hudson River emergency landing.
Jeff Skiles, his co-pilot at the time, was in the cockpit with him as they left to fly the New York-Charlotte, N.C., route that US Airways Flight 1549 was traveling Jan. 15 when a bird strike forced the crew to bring the plane down in the river.
The 1:10 p.m. takeoff from New York City's LaGuardia Airport went smoothly before the jet flew over the Hudson River again and disappeared into the clouds. The flight landed safely in Charlotte a few hours later.
"Sully's rolling again," an air traffic controller could be heard saying as the plane taxied down the runway for takeoff.
Sullenberger and Skiles appeared together at an 11 a.m. news conference before their return US Airways flight and talked to the media again about 4 p.m. after they landed.
Sullenberger said after they disembarked that it was "a beautiful day for flying" and Skiles' landing was "smooth."
His co-pilot said it was a pleasure flying with Sullenberger.
"Sully is the consummate professional," Skiles said.
Flight 1549 had just taken off from LaGuardia Jan. 15 when a flock of Canadian geese got caught in the engines, disabling both of them.
Air traffic control tried to guide the passenger jet to a small airport in New Jersey, but Sullenberger told them he couldn't make it and would land the plane in the Hudson River instead.
All 155 on board were rescued and survived the "splashdown," and "Sully" became known as a hero around the world.
Sullenberger said before his flight on Thursday the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson" "happened at a time when people needed to know that good could still be done in the world."
The gratitude of passengers has been "an extraordinary gift," he said at the conference. And he bestowed the same gift on his co-pilot.
"You have my eternal gratitude for your skill and your courage," Sullenberger told Skiles. "Jeff and the crew really did the best we could in the situation we faced. ... I could not have a better colleague."
The "hero pilot" also said it was "good to be back in New York" and "good to be back at work."
One passenger aboard Flight 1549 that day said he welcomed the pilots' return to the US Airways cockpit.
"I think it will make people feel good — especially those who fly US Airways — to know that Sully is back on board," March Dolphin, of Brooklyn, told the New York Post
US Airways had told reporters that Sullenberger's first flight since the emergency landing would be Thursday, but that wasn't true.
Airline spokesman Jonathan Freed acknowledged that the flight out of LaGuardia would actually be Sullenberger's fourth flight since landing in the Hudson. He flew two passenger flights Sept. 11 as part of his re-training process. His flight Thursday morning from New York to Charlotte was his first with Skiles.
When asked why US Airways released incorrect information, Freed said the flight out of LaGuardia was important because it was "symbolic" for the crew.
"Everybody cheered and clapped when we got on the plane in Charlotte," said Wyatt Smith, 41, from Fort Mill. "I put my seat back and took a nap. I felt really honored and safe that it was him."
Sullenberger has a book coming out, which he acknowledged at both press conferences.