The captain of a Russian passenger jet has been hailed as a hero for landing his plane in a field after it collided with a flock of birds seconds after take-off, causing both engines to malfunction.
The event drew comparisons to the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson” incident when a captain ditched his plane in New York’s Hudson River after a bird strike disabled his engines.
The Ural Airlines A321 carrying 226 passengers and a crew of seven hit the birds as it was taking off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky airport en route for Simferopol, in Crimea.
Russia’s Rosaviatsiya state aviation agency chief Alexander Neradko told reporters the crew “made the only right decision” to land immediately after both engines malfunctioned, coming down in a cornfield about three miles from the runway.
“The crew has shown courage and professionalism and deserve the highest state awards,” he said.
The airline said in a statement the pilot shut down the engines to avoid fire breaking out as the plane landed with its fuel tanks fully loaded.
Ural Airlines lauded the crew for making the emergency landing and arranging a quick evacuation.
The company said the captain, 41-year old Damir Yusupov, is a highly experienced pilot who has flown more than 3,000 hours.
“It was quite a feat to keep the plane from stalling and quickly find a place to land,” Viktor Zabolotsky, a former test pilot, said in televised remarks.
Russian television stations carried footage of passengers standing in the field next to the plane, hugging the pilot and thanking him for saving their lives.
Twenty-three people, including five children, were taken to hospital following the landing but all but one were released following check-ups and quick treatment.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman hailed the pilots as “heroes” and said they will receive state awards.
Plane engines are designed to withstand occasional bird strikes, but a collision with a flock of birds can result in serious trouble.
In 2009, a US Airways Airbus A320 hit a flock of geese after take-off from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport and both of its engines shut down. The crew made an emergency landing in the Hudson River off Midtown Manhattan, and everyone survived.
The “Miracle on the Hudson” was immortalised in the Hollywood movie Sully, starring Tom Hanks.
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