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New Carolinas Aviation Museum has a namesake: Captain Sully

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Indigo Photography
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Capt. Sullenberger at the unveiling of the new aviation museum that bears his name.

The former Carolinas Aviation Museum officially unveiled the name of its new 105,000-square-foot facility near Charlotte Douglas International Airport Thursday: The Sullenberger Aviation Museum.

“It was a great honor, a surprise,” said Captain C.B “Sully” Sullenberger, who rose to fame after the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight in 2009.

“If we can use that name, our name, to help promote aviation and STEM, we're in,” said Sullenberger, speaking near the new museum site.


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The new facility broke ground in Sept. 2022, replacing the previous aviation museum on airport grounds, and it is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2023. The project received more than $27 million in funding from local donors. Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias was a survivor of US Airways Flight 1549 — the famed “Miracle” flight — and gave a $1 million gift.

“Flight 1549 changed the course of my life and gave me the ultimate gift of a second chance,” said Elias. "The museum is a tribute to the courage of Capt. Sullenberger and the entire flight crew, and my hope is that it will also inspire young innovators to change the world.”

A local company with a connection to the 2009 flight also donated $1.5 million to the new building. Charlotte-based Honeywell was the manufacturer of the auxiliary power unit, a backup generator, that was on the Airbus A320 Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles flew and helped them land the plane when the engines failed. Other major contributors include the airport and Bank of America, which had almost two dozen employees on the flight.

Sullenberger landed Charlotte-bound Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009 after hitting a flock of geese that disabled both engines. All passengers and crew members survived.

Aviation enthusiasts will be treated to a brand new facility with many historical artifacts, including the “Miracle” Airbus A320 and 44 other aircraft. The new building will also include flight simulators, interactive exhibits and science, technology, engineering and math education programs.

Once the museum opens, officials are expecting to draw more than 120,000 visitors a year, as well as more than 15,000 students for science, technology engineering and math programs and career development.

“The Sullenberger Aviation Museum will be the premier aviation museum of the Southeast and will allow visitors to experience the past, present and future of aviation like never before,” said Sullenberger Aviation Museum Board Chair Marc Oken. “This reimagined museum will serve as a vital resource to help students and adults connect to careers in STEM-based industries all while showcasing the power and potential of the human imagination through the wonder of flight and transforming lives and economic vitality in the Carolinas.”

As a decorated aviator, Sullenberger hopes the museum gives some more buzz to the North Carolina aviation scene.

Well, what this museum is going to do and what they are proposing inspires me. So I'm confident it will inspire a lot of other people, aviators and prospective aviators,” said Sullenberger, who has been an aviation safety advocate since his retirement.

The aviation industry has seen recent turmoil, from Southwest Airlines' massive schedule catastrophe, to a recent FAA outage that grounded flights this week.

“We shouldn't be complacent. We should be proactively looking for risks and gaps and mitigating them before they can cause harm,” Sullenberger said. “That should be an ongoing continuous process and we need to make more investments in all of our systems to make them reliable so they don't fail very often, redundant so there are backups, and resilient so they can recover quickly after a disruption.”

You can find more information about the museum at   https://www.carolinasaviation.org/ 

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Kenny is a Maryland native who began his career in media as a sportswriter at Tuskegee University, covering SIAC sports working for the athletic department and as a sports correspondent for the Tuskegee Campus Digest. Following his time at Tuskegee, he was accepted to the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program as a Marketing Intern for The NASCAR Foundation in Daytona Beach, Florida in 2017.