Cover Story: Charlotte's flight training center

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - One year ago Friday, we were focused on New York City, watching video you had to see to believe.  All of us thrilled to share a "near-miss" story with a happy ending.

That was the day calm Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger splash-landed his Airbus 320 safely in the Hudson River - saving all 155 people on board.

The flight was Charlotte-bound and many of the people on board were from our area.

On Friday, they traveled back to the "Big Apple."  This time to celebrate their lives, to look back on the past year and to honor the people who made it all possible.

On board Flight 1549 that day was one of the most experienced crews, pilots and flight attendants, in the air today.  Their experience and training they all received here in Charlotte was widely credited for everyone on the plane surviving.

Every pilot and flight attendant is required by law to spend several days each year getting re-trained.

Flying every day you wouldn't think requires having to get retrained.

"You're going to fly.. you guys ready?" "Yeah".

But it does.

"Flaps three. Landing. Checklist." Flaps 3."

Though it looks like one on the inside.  On the outside it looks like a huge cone sitting on top of a hydraulic system.

Meet the Airbus 320 flight simulator.  $12 million of sophisticated hardware integral to keeping you safe in the skies.

Michelle Mohr is a US Airways spokesperson.  She says, "Just a great tool that we have for training our pilots and keeping everybody up to speed on the latest developments."

US Airways has a dozen flight simulators, one for every type plane it flies.  And it has them inside a mammoth 200-thousand square foot training center out of public view on the south side of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

We got a rare ride-along this week with Captain Jack Broadbent and First Officer Kevin Malecki as they were going through training.

Check airman Bruce Galleron, the instructor who observes how they react to what gets thrown at them.

"And we can make it a little more marginal." "Oh wow." "Clear to land." "Roger that."

The computer program is real world images.  You can see the Charlotte skyline off to the right.  And off to the left the red clay the airport's cleared for land for the new runway.

What happened with Flight 1549 put pilot training on the front page and on all our minds.

Though they don't train for water landings, being they are so rare, pilots do go through experiences they're more likely to encounter like bird strikes.

And when they come up to turbulence you can see how the planes react.  After three or four hours of a simulated flight some pilots have come out of here sweating.

Just watch a landing - when you can't see a thing.

1,700 pilots go through US Airways' Charlotte training center each month.  Even Capt. "Sully" had to get retrained before he could resume flying.

There's an area where flight attendants go through recurrent training as well.

"One L.... one R... verified and disarmed. Thank You."

US Airways is a little unique in that it has two flight training centers, one on each coast.

One here in Charlotte and a second in Phoenix which the airline inherited after the merger with America West.

But a majority of the pilots and flight attendants go through the one here in the Queen City.