"Sully" Sullenberger
Retired airline Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger Getty Images

As the 15th anniversary of the "Miracle on the Hudson" approaches, pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger met his co-pilot and some of the 155 passengers he saved on Thursday night in Manhattan.

"It's that I think at a time when we needed it, during the '08-'09 financial meltdown when it seems like human nature was mostly about selfishness and greed, this group of strangers rose to the occasion and made it their mission in life to see that every life was saved, and that's the potential that each of us has," Sullenberger told CBS News when asked what resonated with him 15 years from the event.

Sully, then-co-pilot Jeff Skiles and the passengers met at the Paley Center to address the media as the anniversary approaches. "That was my first trip out of training on the airplane. I just qualified the Friday before on an Airbus 320, a new airplane for me, and this happened right away," said Skiles, who is now a pilot.

Moreover, passenger Barry Leonard said he still gets nervous at the time of lift off. "I count to 90, which is when the birds hit, every time the plane takes off because I know if we can get above 90 seconds, that I'll be OK," he said.

Sully's feat was immortalized in an eponymous film in 2016. Starred by Tom Hanks, it was based on the biographic book, "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters," by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow.

The movie focused on the behind-scenes drama that took place inside the plane before everyone knew they'd be safe. The airliner Sullenberger was piloting had to land right after takeoff because the engines weren't working following a clash with a series of geese, his only solution being to use the Hudson River as his runway, and had it not been so, it could have cost him "his reputation and his wings."

"Sully" is now an aviation safety advocate and says the industry has improved but more work remains to be done.

"We need to attract a lot more people to aviation who have two things -- the aptitude and attitude, because in a safety critical domain, we must have people who understand that just good enough isn't in aviation and requires people who will constantly strive for excellence," he said.

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