NEW YORK - ? In the aftermath of the Flight 1549 crash that took place Thursday afternoon, the survivors are echoing one sentiment: They owe their lives to pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger.

"That pilot has to be commended,? said passenger Beth McHugh, 64. ?He steered that plane so well. I just can't believe how well he did. We're all alive because of him."

The man who emerged from the near-disaster as a hero has flown for US Airways since 1980 and flew F-4 Phantom planes while serving in the Air Force in the 70s. Following his service, he served on a board that investigated aircraft accidents and participated later in several National Transportation Safety Board investigations.

Sullenberger, 57, of Danville, Calif., is also the president of Safety Reliability Methods, a California-based safety consulting firm.

The co-pilot on the flight was 49-year-old Jeff Skiles, of Oregon, Wis. Skiles? wife said he?s doing fine and is relieved everyone made it off the plane safely.

In a news conference Thursday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg informed the public of Sullenberger?s heroism during and after the crash. Not only did the pilot bring Flight 1549 down in one piece on the Hudson, he walked through the plane twice as it was sinking to make sure everyone made it out safely.

"He was the last one up the aisle and he made sure that there was nobody behind him," said Bloomberg.

Candace Andersen, a member of the Danville Town Council who lives a few blocks from Sullenberger, said the right man was at the controls when the Airbus A320 was apparently disabled by bird strikes.

"You look at his training, you look at his experience. It was just the right pilot at the right time in charge of that plane that saved so many lives," Anderson said. "He is a man who is calm, cool, collected, just as he was today."

Associated Press wire reports contributed to this article.

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