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Finally, US Airways Flight 1549 arrives in Charlotte

Greeted and cheered by crowds and escorted by the N.C. Highway Patrol and news helicopters, the fuselage of US Airways Flight 1549 finally reached Charlotte on Friday morning.

Nearly 27 months after taking off from New York City for Charlotte, the main body of the Airbus A-320 was pulled into Charlotte/Douglas International Airport about 11:45 a.m., completing a journey from New Jersey.

The flight crash-landed in the Hudson River in January 2009, but the fuselage was carried by truck this week to Charlotte, where it will become an exhibit at the Carolinas Aviation Museum. A reception for the flight's pilot, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and some of the 155 passengers -- all of whom survived the crash-landing -- is scheduled Saturday evening.

"I'm in heaven," said Shaen Dorsch, director of the Carolinas Aviation Museum, as the caravan reached the UPS facility gate at the airport shortly before noon.

Upon arrival at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the plane passed under a canopy of water jets from airport crash trucks, a traditional salute.

Flight 1549 passengers Eileen Shleffar and Michael Leonard, both Belk executives who were aboard the plane on a business flight, were there Friday to greet the aircraft.

"I wanted to see my flight finally arrive," said Leonard, who was in seat 12D when the Airbus came down.

Shleffar, who was scheduled for a later flight but managed to get aboard Flight 1549 for an earlier return to Charlotte, called her husband of 20 years from seat 13D after the plane slammed into geese and it became clear the aircraft was headed down.

"He was like, 'Hey, what's up? You going to be late?' I said, 'No. We're going to crash.' "

They stayed on the phone until reception was lost when the fuselage skidded into the Hudson River.

"I didn't like flying before the crash, and I don't like it now," said Shleffar, who posed for pictures in front of the fuselage. "But I still do it. I want to live life."

Among the thousands lining the roadsides to see the plane pass were Dallas and Brenda Jamison, whose son Andrew was aboard Flight 1549. He was scheduled for a later flight out of New York, but managed to get the last seat, 25E.

He wound up in a forward raft beside Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. First officer Jeff Skiles handed him a life vest.

Jamison, now a dermatologist in Texas with a 5-month-old daughter, called his parents from the raft that day to tell them he was OK.

"Today, we're finally going to meet his flight," said Brenda Jamison, standing beside the plane's route outside Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.

Read more of this story at CharlotteObserver.com

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