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Pilot Showed Grit, Wants No Glory in Daring Landing

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He's being called "Captain Cool" and the last competent man in America. Larry King and Katie Couric want to talk to him. Even his dog, Beauregard, has a shot at fame.

But Scott Burke wants nothing to do with it.

It turns out the pilot with nerves of steel -- who didn't flinch from landing a crippled airliner on national television Wednesday -- is publicity shy.

Two days after his smooth touchdown, Burke, 46, was expected back home in Raleigh on Friday, where he lives with his wife, Barbara, and their beagle.

News outlets from all over the country want interviews, but Burke didn't answer the phone or the bell Friday at his tidy brick house in a relatively new north Raleigh neighborhood, where TV reporters had wedged business cards in the door. He even asked friends and family members not to dish about his personal life.

"That's just the way Scott is," said brother-in-law Mark Morales, who lives in New Jersey and obeyed the gag order. "He's a very private guy and doesn't want to make a big deal of it."

It's a little late for that, after Burke brought down a JetBlue plane with a stuck landing gear in Los Angeles without harming any of the 140 passengers.

But it goes with the image that emerged after Burke's performance: Competent. Professional. Cool under fire. Not the kind of guy to be overly impressed with himself.

"He joked that he was sorry he put the plane down six inches off the center line," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told reporters after talking to Burke. It was the mayor who revealed him by name to the news media.

Burke was already worried about all the attention even as he landed the plane, according to reports of his communications with the ground crew.

"Do we have somebody here who is media savvy?" the pilot radioed, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I want to keep the media wolves off my back. I've got nothing to say to them."

Morales did say his brother-in-law has lived in the Raleigh area for about 15 years. Burke's father was also a commercial pilot.

Passengers aboard the harrowing flight said Burke and the crew kept calm through it all.

They cheered him when he emerged from the cockpit and waved after touchdown.

"I'm so glad we got that guy," pregnant passenger Alexandra Jacobs told the New York Daily News. "I just want to give him a big, wet smooch."

PUBLISHED BY: THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

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