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Senate confirms Capt. Sullenberger as ICAO ambassador

The U.S. Senate on December 2 confirmed Chelsey 'Sully' Sullenberger as ambassador to the International Civil Aviation Organization. Photo by David Tulis.

Sullenberger, a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and former US Airways captain, was confirmed to IACO on December 2, making him the eighteenth U.S. representative to serve on the UN aviation safety agency.

Sullenberger is most notably remembered for US Airways Flight 1549, when he and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles ditched their Airbus A320 in New York’s Hudson River after striking a flock of geese and losing both engines shortly after takeoff from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport. The water landing, resulting in no loss of life, was described by an NTSB official as “the most successful ditching in aviation history” and came to be known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” The events of Flight 1549 and the subsequent investigation were later adapted into a feature film in 2016.

Sullenberger was nominated to be the new ICAO ambassador by President Joe Biden in June. Reuters reports that the confirmation comes at a time when the White House is expected to push for ambitious new international aviation emissions standards at ICAO’s upcoming negotiations.

According to Reuters, last month, the Biden administration shared its goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. aviation sector by 2050 and in September, stated it was targeting 20 percent lower aviation emissions by 2030. At the same time Sullenberger said he “would underscore the administration’s commitment to meaningful action on carbon offsets, sustainable aviation fuels, and gradual direct emissions reductions.”

On December 6, AOPA President Mark Baker congratulated Sullenberger on the confirmation: “I … have every confidence that you will be an exemplary representative for the United States and aviation on a global scale.” Baker looks forward to meeting with Sullenberger soon to discuss current interests before IACO.

On his new post, Sullenberger shared via Twitter that “It is one of the greatest honors of my life to be confirmed as United States Ambassador to ICAO,” adding, “I look forward to working together with other ICAO members and leaders in global aviation to ensure the highest levels of safety and security and to address the many challenges we face.”

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