The careers of two highly regarded and celebrated men came to surprise endings this week in Charlotte.

As reported in the Charlotte Observer, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger flew his last commercial flight for US Airways, landing his short hop run from Ft. Lauderdale into the Queen City on Wednesday. He received a water cannon salute by the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport Emergency crew.

Sully, of course, is the “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot who safely belly-flopped the ill fated flight 1549 into the icy river last year, saving all aboard. Sully is hanging it up to lobby for improved flight safety and stricter regulations over the industry by the embattled FAA.

Jake Delhomme, the affable “Rajun Cajun” quarterback of the Carolina Panthers for the better part of the past decade, also made news in Charlotte by leaving the Panthers . Delhomme, the same QB who led the Cats to two NFC title games and a Super Bowl was unceremoniously dumped by the team, facing the new reality in the labor contract-less NFL.

In the case of Sully, 58, we have an older, experienced sage valued for his years on the job and cool handed skill under pressure. Delhomme at 35 is approaching the point where most QBs are doing play by play for the network or coaching college ball.

Delhomme, whose stock dove faster than Sully’s flight 1549, was just signed to a $12.6 million contract extension last spring and will receive the dough regardless of whether he takes another snap or not. The Panthers guaranteed the money and only saved themselves from an additional $10 million bonus if he remained under contract for a few more months.

Sully undoubtedly has the tougher road to hoe ahead of him in helping shine light on our nation’s woefully antiquated aviation infrastructure, particularly in the area of pilot experience, training and rest requirements.

“Inexperienced pilots and crew fatigue pose a threat to the public and the industry,” Sully said. “Airlines are under great pressure to reduce costs, he said, but some decision-makers in the industry are too far removed from the consequences of the streamlining they advocate.”

“We can’t forget we’re in the business of saving lives, not saving money,” Sullenberger said.

Crew experience requirements, compensation and required time between flights are sensitive areas, with US commuter airlines leading the way in the minds of many for reform.

What does it say about our nation when we are willing to pay our sports heroes million of dollars though can’t or won’t bring the resources to bear to put even the most basic fixes in place that would save countless lives and bring peace of mind to the flying public?

It seems that the agents for NFL stars and airline lobbyists attend the same workshops. Maybe it’s time for the regulators to join along.

Michael J. Solender

Michael J. Solender

Michael J. Solender is a recent corporate refugee whose opinion and satire has been featured in The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Winston-Salem Journal, and Richmond Style Weekly. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for The Charlotte Observer and is the City Life Editor for Charlotte ViewPoint. His micro-fiction has been featured online at Bull Men’s Fiction, Calliope Nerve, Danse Macabre, Dogzplot, Gloom Cupboard, Full of Crow, Pangur Ban Party and others.

You can find more of his work at his website and also at his blog.