Hudson River splash down pilot has EDH connection

By: Art Garcia
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“Too low, too slow,” Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger radioed a mayday distress to air traffic controllers, and near too many tall buildings to reach an airport to land his crippled US Airways Airbus 320. His only choice: pancaking the huge jet and its 155 passengers and crew into the icy Hudson River in Manhattan. No casualties, no serious injuries. A confluence of luck and skill, one catastrophic risk manager said, but Sunil Wadwa of El Dorado Hills gives the edge to skill. He’s worked with and known Sullenberger since the mid-1980s, when both worked for US Airways – Sullenberger as a pilot, Wadwa working his way through college as a flight attendant for the airline. “Sully and I flew together many, many times and became friends,” he said. “I was training to become a commercial pilot so I took the job as a flight attendant to kind of get my foot in the door.” Wadwa, 46, didn’t earn a commercial pilot’s license but he did become instrument and multi-engine rated. It’s been a while since he’s flown but he plans to renew his ratings and begin again flying, private planes rented from the Cameron Park airport. Through Lori, now his wife and who worked in sales and marketing for US Airways in San Francisco, Wadwa met the future Mrs. Sullenberger, another Lori, who was Lori Wadwa’s boss. The quartet became close friends. Tight enough that when Sullenberger was ready to propose marriage to his Lori above Lake Tahoe he asked Wadwa to pilot the plane. “Sully and Lori drove from the Bay Area to El Dorado Hills. I rented a plane for the four of us at Cameron Park and as we taxied we had a mechanical problem so I turned back to the hangar,” recalled Wadwa. “Sully was very impressed because he’s a very, very cautious pilot.” They eventually did take off and Wadwa circled the lake several times, Sully in the back seat ready to pop the question. Also popping were champagne corks as he received the affirmative answer he sought. From Tahoe, Wadwa flew to Chico where the plane was greeted by balloons and the parents of the future bride and groom. After a pre-arranged lunch, it was back to Cameron Park. Though Wadwa never earned his commercial pilot’s wings, his life “took another turn into the entrepreneurial world” where he has been successful with various projects and products. Meanwhile, the Wadwas and the Sullenbergers, who live in Danville in the East Bay, remain close friends. * * * Should there be a turnout where concerned dog-owner motorists can pull off Green Valley Road heading east into El Dorado County and U-turn back into the canine safety of neighboring Sacramento County? California, and the counties, have no shortage of road signs, even some that make sense, but always fascinating has been the one at Shadowfax Lane and Green Valley at the county line. You may have seen it, but perhaps you’ve missed it, which is not easy to do. It’s tall and yellow and topped with “Warning” and the international “no” circle with a line through it and a shadow image of a dog. What’s that about? Well, it illustrates this warning: “Dogs harming or worrying livestock may be shot.” The signing authority: “California Food & Agriculture Code, Section 31102, County of El Dorado.” Milk from contented cows, but from “worried” bovines? “Shot?” Seems a harsh way to treat a playful pooch, but historically this was Old West country. Know any veterinarians who counsel troubled cows? Art Garcia is a career journalist who lives in El Dorado Hills and is editorial director of Media Mark, a professional writing firm.