- Ural Airlines A321 plane was taking off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky airport Thursday when it hit a flock of birds
- One of the engines caught fire while the other one spluttered and then stopped working, Russian media says
- Hero pilot Damir Yusupov brought the plane down in a cornfield, leaving 23 people with just minor wounds
- Russian media compared crash to Miracle on the Hudson, when jet successfully crash-landed in New York
A Russian pilot has been hailed as a hero after he successfully crash-landed a passenger plane in a cornfield today after birds were sucked into both engines, causing them to fail.
Ural Airlines Flight U1678 was taking off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky airport at 6.10am local time bound for Simferopol, Crimea, when it suffered a double bird strike, causing one engine to burst into flames and the other to stop working.
Captain Damir Yusupov, 41, radioed the airport asking to make an emergency landing but was forced to ditch into a cornfield a mile away after realising he was not going to make it.
Yusupov brought the plane down with no power in either engine and with the landing gear retracted.
In total, 23 of the 226 passengers and seven crew on board were sent to hospital for minor injuries, though only one – a 69-year-old woman – required further treatment.
Russian media immediately began comparing the crash to the Miracle on the Hudson, when pilot Chesley Sullenberger successfully landed a plane on New York’s Hudson River in 2009 after hitting a flock of geese.
All 155 people aboard the US Airways Airbus A320 were rescued by nearby boats with few serious injuries.
Passengers reported seeing ‘a flash and then a smell of smoke’ as one of the engines caught fire, before the second also stopped working.
‘It all happened in a few seconds… We took off and came back down,’ passenger Irina Usacheva told state television channel Rossiya 24.
Passenger Svetlana Babina said the bird strike could be heard from inside the plane and that the engines started making ‘strange noises’.
‘We have to pay tribute to the pilot, in the circumstances he landed as softly as possible,’ she told the RIA Novosti news agency.
‘Everyone is alive! The pilot is a genius,’ passenger Olga told tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, saying applause broke out following the landing.
‘The crew of the Ural Airlines flight showed fantastic skill and cool-headedness,’ said Yevgeny Kuyvashev, the governor of Yusupov’s home region.
An extraordinary drone video from channel NTV shows plane in the cornfield after the accident.
The footage shows how the captain and his copilot Georgiy Murzin, 23, used the field to act as a brake, despite the terrifying risk of the aircraft’s fuel tanks bursting into flames.
After the evacuation, passengers rushed to embrace and thank Yusupov and his flight attendants who helped them exit the stricken Airbus.
‘He and his team saved 233 lives. They are heroes.’
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also hailed the ‘hero pilots’ who landed the plane.
‘The plane’s passengers and crew remained alive, we wish a speedy recovery to those injured, and congratulations to the hero pilots who saved lives and landed the plane,’ Peskov said.