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'Sully' plane is a hit for N.C. aviation museum

Chicago Tribune

The 2016 movie "Sully" didn't get much Oscar love; the Tom Hanks film is only up for one Academy Award — for sound editing.

But the biopic got a lot of people flocking to the Carolinas Aviation Museum, home of the actual plane that Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger landed safely in the Hudson River. Visitor numbers more than doubled after "Sully" hit the big screen in September, museum spokesperson Jan Black said.

The storied plane is the centerpiece of the aviation museum near Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where the Airbus A320 was scheduled to land on that fateful day eight years ago. 

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US Airways Flight 1549 had just taken off from New York when it struck a flock of Canada geese, disabling its engines. Sully made an emergency water landing, and every one of the 150 passengers and five crew members survived the "Miracle on the Hudson."

The recovered aircraft was moved in 2011 to the museum — an appropriate resting place given that at least half of the people onboard were from Charlotte, a major hub for US Airways, which completed its merger with American Airlines in 2015.

The museum's hangar collection is dominated by the "Miracle on the Hudson" jet. To accommodate the height of the Airbus tail, the hulk sits low — maybe 4 feet above the pavement — on a custom-made mount. Monitors facing the 137,789-pound airliner show 2009 newscasts, interviews with passengers and the recovery of the Airbus from the Hudson.

But your attention keeps returning to the un-restored Airbus: the bottom that detached when making initial contact with the Hudson; the dings, dents and other mayhem visited on the lower fuselage; the left engine separated from the jet and recovered later. You can still spot dried "snarge," the guts of geese that crippled both engines.

The museum's storyboards, displays and well-informed docents help flesh out the story beyond the pilot-oriented film. For example, Flight 1549 was popular with corporate commuters returning to their jobs at Charlotte's big retailers and banks. The execs' team-building skills proved an asset when the downed jet had to be evacuated.

Adult admission to the museum is $12; www.carolinasaviation.org.

John Bordsen is a freelance writer.

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