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River survivors join hero pilot's last flight

The hero pilot who landed a jet safely on the Hudson River and saved 150 passengers is retiring and plans to fight for better flight safety.

Capt Chesley Sullenberger (59) celebrated at a private ceremony with fellow pilots and other US Airways employees after his final flight yesterday, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to his base at Charlotte.

Capt Sullenberger flew with his co-pilot during the Hudson landing, First Officer Jeff Skiles. As they walked off the plane, people in the airport recognised the pilots and applauded.

Capt Sullenberger said he plans to spend more time with his family in retirement and will write another book.

Everyone on board survived the emergency river landing in January 2009 when a flock of Canada geese was sucked into the plane's engines minutes after taking off from New York's LaGuardia Airport for Charlotte, North Carolina.

In a touching tribute, about a half dozen of the passengers on Flight 1549 joined him on his last flight.

One of the survivors of the Hudson River landing, Mary Berkwitz, said in an interview that she was disappointed to hear Capt Sullenberger was retiring.

"Every time I get on a plane, I feel like, 'Oh God, I hope it's Sully at the pilot's seat'. Now I know it's not going to be. In a way it's sad," she said.