"Miracle" plane will come home to Charlotte

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The delayed arrival of Flight 1549.  Two years later, the ill-fated voyage will finally arrive at its final destination.  From the bottom of the Hudson River to a Charlotte museum.

The miracle on the Hudson put Sully in the spotlight.  Now the wreckage will further shine that light on Charlotte.

The US Airways jet that splash-landed in January 2009 is coming home.

The Carolinas Aviation Museum says it's all but finalized an agreement to put the damaged Airbus on display in Charlotte.

It's a big deal for the city to land this piece of history.  Charlotte beat out the Smithsonian and many other groups that wanted to display this airplane.

But it was a trip to Japan that got the head of the Carolinas Aviation Museum thinking about the possibilities.

"Brace for impact."

The images of that day are unforgettable.  January 15, 2009.  New York City.

"They were scarey moments."

Nine months after the "Miracle on the Hudson" Sully and first officer Jeff Skiles completed the flight to Charlotte they didn't finish.  Now 2 years later the plane that saved their life is finally coming home.

Beth McHugh was a passenger on Flight 1549.

"This airplane is the unsung hero of the miracle," she said.  "That Airbus 320 floated long enough for all of us to get out of it and to be rescued."

By this May right next to a Piedmont Airlines DC-3 the Carolinas Aviation Museum (next-door to Charlotte Douglas Airport) will have on display the plane that was US Airways Flight 1549.

It's a story that captured the world's imagination.

"1549 is an international aviation icon. Something that really captivated not just attention of United States but people around the world."

Museum president Shawn Dorsch told us it was a trip to Japan that he made last year when he saw an exhibit in Japanese of Flight 1549 that got thinking it was a gem he had to bring home to the Queen City.

"This is really a Charlotte story."

Though it all happened in New York City, a majority of the passengers are from here.  The crew was based here.  And US Airways biggest hub is here.

"The support of US Airways and US Airways employees has just been overwhelming. It's amazing how people come out of the woodwork to help on this project," said Dorsch.

Working through US Airways they managed to convince Chartis (the insurance company who took ownership after the incident) to part with it promising to keep it intact.

A fact that Sully Sullenberger and many others wanted.

"I'm glad that they found a way to display it in a place that the entire plane could be displayed intact. It's an important artifact," said Sullenberger, who spoke with us by phone from home in California.

Other museums wanted only parts of the plane.  Charlotte's museum will display the whole thing.  In two years the museum predicts its attendance will improve 5-fold to 100,000 visitors a year.

"It's gonna be a big asset to Charlotte to the airport and as a museum," said museum visitor Emory Stephens.

The airplane's currently sitting in various pieces in a warehouse in Newark, New Jersey.

It'll be hauled here this summer on 5-or-6 different tractor trailers and take about a week to ten days to get here.

The Museum's not saying how much it's going to cost.  There are still some final plans to work out.

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