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'Sully' soon will headline Centennial Airport’s 50th

Renowned pilot to appear at event benefiting local aviation, aerospace programs

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One of the busiest general-aviation airports in the country will host famed “miracle on the Hudson” pilot Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger for its 50th anniversary celebration.

The gala luncheon May 25 will see Sullenberger share his credo of “leadership by personal example.” Proceeds from the event will go to benefit the Centennial Airport Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that supports local STEM education and programs, particularly those with an emphasis on aviation and aerospace.

The audience at the Denver Marriott Tech Center will hear an address from Sullenberger about the life lessons that prepared him to handle the historic moment when he saved 155 lives on a flight that landed in the Hudson River.

On Jan. 15, 2009, Sullenberger lost thrust in both engines on US Airways Flight 1549 and led his crew to safely execute an emergency water landing on the river in New York. Sullenberger and the crew garnered widespread acclaim for their actions, including the passage of a congressional resolution in their honor. The crisis came to be known as the “miracle on the Hudson” and inspired the 2016 motion picture “Sully,” in which Tom Hanks portrayed Sullenberger.

Coming back to Centennial Airport to talk about leadership seemed natural for Sullenberger, who served as a fighter pilot for the Air Force from 1975-80.

Originally the Arapahoe County Airport, it’s a place he became acquainted with nearly five decades ago.

“When I entered the U.S. Air Force Academy, I already held a commercial-pilot certificate that I had earned while still in high school,” said Sullenberger, a Texas native. “During the Thanksgiving weekend of my freshman year, I traveled to the Arapahoe County Airport to fly a Cessna 172 to get some flight time and maintain my piloting skills. I flew an hour-long flight that day. Over my four years at the academy, I had occasion to fly into (the airport) a few times.”

In a changing commercial-aviation industry landscape, Sullenberger’s speech comes at a time when the future of the craft depends heavily on young hopefuls for pilot and technician positions.

The nonprofit Centennial Airport Foundation supports local STEM education and programs, particularly with an emphasis on aviation and aerospace.

The airport’s executive director, Robert Olislagers, reflected on Centennial Airport’s growth as an influential part of the south Denver metro area.

“From humble beginnings in 1968, Centennial Airport has grown to become one of the most respected, premier business airports in the nation,” Olislagers said. It is “an integral part of the economic success of the Denver south metro area, and being able to celebrate 50 years of aviation excellence with Captain Sullenberger, who exemplifies excellence in aviation, is a fitting tribute to not only the airport, but to all who have made our success possible.”

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