Jun 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Sully's flight path to Biden ambassador

Former Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is seen at a 2020 political rally for Joe Biden.

Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger at a Joe Biden rally in February 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's nomination to be a U.S. ambassador completes his metamorphosis from national icon to political figure.

Why it matters: After saving all 155 passengers and crew in the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson" plane crash, Sullenberger became a sort of Anthony Fauci of aviation: a trusted public figure with international name recognition.

  • President Biden's nomination of Sullenberger as the U.S. representative to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization risks drawing some of the same slings and arrows that have befallen his coronavirus counterpart.

Driving the news: Sully's name stood out in a list of career and political ambassadors President Biden unveiled ahead of tomorrow's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • If confirmed by the Senate, the 70-year-old retired U.S. Airways captain will represent the nation in international aviation matters at ICAO's headquarters in Montreal.

What they're saying: "As an Air Line Pilots Association accident investigation committee member, (Sullenberger) participated in a National Transportation Safety Board investigation of a major airline accident, leading to improved airline procedures and training for emergency evacuation," the White House said in the nomination statement.

Don't forget: Sullenberger made several campaign appearances for Biden in 2020 and cut an ad for the anti-Trump Lincoln Project weeks before the general election.

  • The Air Force veteran said in the ad: "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."
  • Before aligning with Democrats during Trump's presidency, Sullenberger had spent most of his life as a Republican. The GOP had even sought unsuccessfully to recruit him to run for Congress.
  • During the 2018 midterms, he wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece, "I have always voted as an American. And this critical Election Day, I will do so by voting for leaders committed to rebuilding our common values and not pandering to our basest impulses."
Go deeper