Days after his heroic plane landing, Capt. Chesley Sullenberger has scored a coveted invitation to the presidential ceremony

By Nicole Weisensee Egan
Updated January 19, 2009 06:45 PM
Janis Krums/AP; inset: REUTERS/Landov

Hero US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his family will be attending Tuesday’s presidential inauguration, an official for President-elect Barack Obama has confirmed.

The invite is just the latest example of how the 57-year-old pilot has been lifted from obscurity to worldwide recognition in just a few days. Videos of his emergency landing of Flight 1549 in the middle of New York City’s Hudson River on Jan. 15 are among the most popular on YouTube and a fan page started for him on Facebook has almost 400,000 fans and continues to climb.

Meanwhile, back in Sullenberger’s hometown of Danville, Calif., the town’s mayor says he’s planning a big parade for him as soon as he returns home. “We’re immensely proud of someone in our community becoming an American hometown hero,” Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich told PEOPLE. “This guy embodies the true American spirit.”

Sullenberger had been scheduled to appear on the Today show Monday but postponed his interview at the request of his union, which cited the ongoing National Transportation Safety Board probe of the crash.

Capt. Sullenberger and his crew issued a statement Monday morning asking the media to respect their wishes not to be interviewed until the NTSB probe, which is expected to wrap up fairly quickly, is complete.

In the statement, the crew said they “wish to offer their sincere thanks and appreciation for the overwhelming support, praise and well wishes they have received from the public around the world since the events of last Thursday.”

With reporting by SUSAN YOUNG and NINA BURLEIGH