Capt. Chesley Sullenberger is best known for his successful landing of a US Airways plane on the Hudson River in 2009, an event depicted in the Clint Eastwood-directed film “Sully.”
Sullenberger is currently the aviation and safety expert for CBS News, and he travels around the world speaking on topics related to airline safety and standards.
When flying for work, he’s mostly in the passenger seat. “I still fly myself privately on short-range business and family trips, but I’m on the major airlines all the time,” he said.
Now retired from his job as a pilot with US Airways, when he flies commercial he has no particular favorite airline. “I travel on whoever has a flight going where I want to go, when I want to go, nonstop, with the largest airplane I can get on. That’s my strategy. Bigger airplanes, with two aisles instead of one, provide a better experience overall, and I think it’s more comfortable.”
Sullenberger has a couple of tips for travelers. To start with, don’t take more than you need.
“That makes it easier for everyone. As an airline family, we’ve been through Europe with one roll-aboard apiece for a week. You just have to pack intelligently and mix and match.”
He also recommends flying early in the day. “Especially in the summertime before the thunderstorms develop and the weather becomes more of a factor. If you take one of the first flights out in the morning, typically the airplane and the crew have arrived the night before. When you’re not waiting on an inbound flight, there are fewer delays.”
When asked one of the most controversial questions in air travel, he’s honest: “I do recline my seat, but not fully. Especially if it’s a tight one, or a short flight, I won’t recline it much at all. I envision myself being on the receiving end.”
Here’s what he packs on every trip.
“I always bring good running shoes. I try to work out, time permitting, wherever I am. And on the plane I try to wear a pair of versatile shoes that are nice-looking enough to dress up and comfortable enough to do a lot of walking in.”
“I have a varied collection of music on my phone. I like a lot of the popular music that has a really energetic beat to it, as well as some classical things. These days I’m listening to some Adele, like ‘Set Fire to the Rain.’ And ‘Azul,' by a guitarist called Jesse Cook. He’s got some fascinating tunes. I’m also listening to ‘Shut Up and Dance' by Walk the Moon and ‘Cake by the Ocean' by DNCE.”
“If I’m going to have time for exploring, I'll find a good map of the destination city to take with me. I love that. It helps to really map where I’m going to go and to see the big picture before I start out.”
“I always carry a good sunscreen. Especially with my light complexion.”
“This is something I’ve done for a while. When we’re traveling as a family, I write down the most surprising things that we saw, the funniest thing that someone said. It’s fun, especially now that our daughters are a little older, to go back and look at trips we took eight or 10 years ago. It’s kind of a gift that you get to keep enjoying as the years go by. Because you forget! Your more recent experiences sort of override all the things that you did before, and you often forget those things as you move on in life.”