"60 Minutes" lands hero pilot's first TV interview

Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:09am EST
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By Paul J. Gough

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The ongoing booking war between the networks erupted anew with the news that hero pilot Chesley Sullenberger will tell his story on "60 Minutes" instead of NBC's "Today."

Except for brief remarks Saturday in his hometown of Danville, California, the public hasn't yet heard from the US Airways captain who safely landed a full Airbus A320 in the Hudson River after losing both engines as he was departing New York's LaGuardia Airport on January 15. NBC said two days later that it had secured the first interview with Sullenberger, which would take place on "Today."

After heavily promoting the live interview with "Today" co-host Matt Lauer, "Today" had to backtrack. It said January 19 that the interview was postponed. Without giving a reason, it said that the pilots' union wanted to give the National Transportation Safety Board investigation a little more time before allowing Sullenberger to speak. He and the other four crew members had spoken to NTSB investigators several days earlier.

NBC said at the time that it had been promised the interview when Sullenberger did talk. But instead, "60 Minutes" and other CBS News outlets grabbed for the first interview. The pilot will be interviewed by Katie Couric, who anchors "CBS Evening News," contributes to "60 Minutes" and is Lauer's former co-host. Sullenberger and the entire crew will be interviewed for a "60 Minutes" episode February 8.

It wasn't immediately clear why the interview changed networks, though if the decision was made based on ratings, "60 Minutes" would be the best bet.

CBS wasn't talking about the circumstances, but NBC was hopping mad Friday.

"What Captain Sullenberger did in the cockpit on Flight 1549 was heroic and admirable. Unfortunately, people close to him have not acted nearly as admirably over the past few days," NBC said. "They gave us their word and then broke their commitment. We wish Captain Sullenberger the best."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger III, who safely landed a US Airways plane in the Hudson River, waves as he enters a celebration in Danville, California January 24, 2009. All 155 people aboard the airplane survived. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>