Russia bird strike: How cool heads glided jet down to safety

The Russian pilots who crash-landed a fuel-laden Airbus jet in a corn field, without any serious harm to the 233 people on board, are being hailed as heroes.

The A321 was moments into its flight, after taking off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky airport, when a flock of seagulls got sucked into its engines, causing both to fail.

Russians are comparing the drama to “Miracle on the Hudson” – the bird strike that almost doomed an Airbus over New York in 2009, but ended happily when the pilot landed the jet safely in the Hudson River.

What happened to the Russian A321?

It was a regular flight from Moscow to Simferopol, in Crimea, with 226 passengers on board, mostly going on holiday to the seaside.

The Ural Airlines plane weighed as much as 77 tonnes and pilot Damir Yusupov told reporters how narrowly the passengers and seven crew had escaped disaster

The plane was climbing, accelerating, when first one engine, then the other, suddenly shut down.

When one engine failed they thought they could still turn back to the airport, Capt Yusupov said.

“When we saw that the second was also losing power, despite all of our efforts, the plane began losing height,” he said.

“I changed my mind several times, because I was planning to gain height,” he said. But Flightradar data shows that the A321 had only reached 243m (797ft).

Capt Yusupov and his co-pilot, Georgi Murzin, managed to stop the fuel supply to the engines and kept the jet level, gliding it down into the corn field, without lowering the undercarriage. With the wheels down, there is a risk of flying debris rupturing the plane’s fuel tanks.

He said he had practised emergency landings on a flight simulator at Ural Airlines.

“I really don’t feel like a hero,” he said. “I did what I had to do, saved the plane, the passengers, the crew.”

Passengers were evacuated via escape slides and were told to get away from the plane quickly.

An 11-year-old boy, Vitya Babin, said: “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.”

About 70 of the passengers got medical attention, as the landing was rough and they were bruised, but just one woman needed to stay in hospital.

Luckily, the high-standing maize crop acted like a cushion, and it was damp from rain, so sparks did not ignite it. In many other directions around Moscow the jet would have come up against a terrain of roads and buildings.

How big is the risk of bird strikes?

Russia’s Vedomosti daily reports that in 2015 there were 411 bird strikes in Russia, and last year 1,021. But it is a daily hazard in aviation worldwide.

There is a rubbish dump that attracts birds, just 2km (1.2 miles) from Zhukovsky airport, according to Vedomosti. Other Russian dailies also point to illegal rubbish dumps near airports as a serious hazard.

Moscow officials quoted by Tass news agency however said the nearest rubbish dump to Zhukovsky was 14km away.

Source : BBC

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