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Home » Kremlin lauds ‘hero’ pilots after emergency landing
Kuwait Times International

Kremlin lauds ‘hero’ pilots after emergency landing

MOSCOW: This handout picture shows the Ural Airlines A321 plane after a hard landing on a corn field near Moscow’s Zhukovsky airport. – AFP

MOSCOW: The
Kremlin lauded two Russian pilots as heroes and said they would be handed state
awards after they landed an airliner carrying 233 people in a cornfield outside
Moscow after striking a flock of birds during take-off. Russians have said it
was a miracle that no one was killed when the Ural Airlines Airbus 321 came
down in a field southeast of Moscow with its landing gear up after hitting a
passing flock of gulls, disrupting the plane’s engines. Up to 55 people,
including 17 children, were treated for injuries, six of whom have been
hospitalized, Russian news agencies quoted the emergencies ministry as saying.

State television
said the incident was being dubbed the “miracle over Ramensk”, the
name of the district near Moscow where the plane came down around one kilometer
from Zhukovsky International Airport. The Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid praised
pilot Damir Yusupov as a “hero,” saying he had saved 233 lives,
“having masterfully landed a plane without its landing gear with a failing
engine right in a corn field.”

Some drew
comparisons with US Airways Flight 1549 which performed a landing on the Hudson
River in New York in 2009 after striking a flock of geese. “We
congratulate the hero pilots who saved people’s lives,” Kremlin spokesman
Dmitry Peskov said, adding that the Kremlin would see that the men were quickly
given state honors. “There’s no doubt about this. They will be given
awards.”

Belly-flop
landing

The plane’s
engines were turned off when it executed the emergency landing and it also had
its landing gear up, according to Elena Mikheyeva, a spokeswoman for Russia’s
civil aviation authority. Footage shot by passengers showed the flight lasted
less than two minutes and that the engines had experienced difficulties almost
immediately after take-off.

Vitya Babin, 11,
who was on the plane with his mother and sister, said passengers had not been
warned there was going to be an emergency landing. There was silence in the
cabin and then screams began when it touched down, footage showed. “We
were not warned,” said Babin. An unnamed passenger interviewed by state
television said the plane had started to shake moments after it took off.

“Five
seconds later, the lights on the right side of the plane started flashing and
there was a smell of burning. Then we landed and everyone ran away,” he
said. Passengers were evacuated via escape slides and were told to distance
themselves from the plane. “One of the stewardesses said there was smoke
coming from the plane and we immediately panicked. We ran after one of the men.
He said follow me,” Babin said. A local resident quoted by radio station
Govorit Moskva said the gulls that struck the plane had probably come from an
illegal rubbish dump near Zhukovsky airport.

Moscow region
officials, however, rejected that assertion and said the nearest rubbish dump
to the airport was 14 kilometers away, TASS news agency reported. The plane was
due to fly to Simferopol in Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia from
Ukraine in 2014. Safety concerns have plagued Russia’s airline industry since
the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, though standards are widely recognized
to have sharply risen on international routes in particular in recent years. –
Reuters

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