World

Russian pilot saves over 230 lives landing jet in corn field

MOSCOW: A Russian pilot was being hailed as a hero yesterday for landing an Airbus carrying more than 230 people in a Moscow corn field after a bird strike.

The Ural Airlines A321 flying to Crimea hit a flock of seagulls shortly after take-off from Moscow's Zhukovsky airport yesterday, the Rosaviatsia air transport agency said in a statement.

Zhukovsky is about 40km south-east of Moscow.

Birds were sucked into the engines and the crew decided to land, bringing the plane down in the corn field a kilometre from the runway, with the engines off and the landing gear retracted. The aircraft, carrying 226 passengers and a crew of seven, was evacuated via inflatable ramps.

The Health Ministry said 23 people were taken to hospital but there were no serious injuries.

"It all happened in a few seconds... We took off and came back down," passenger Irina Usacheva told state television channel Rossiya 24.

The bird strike could be heard inside the plane, passenger Svetlana Babina told RIA Novosti news agency. "We have to pay tribute to the pilot, he landed as softly as possible."

The pilot, 41-year-old Damir Yusupov, was praised for his quick thinking. "The crew of the Ural Airlines flight showed fantastic skill and cool-headedness," said Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev of Mr Yusupov's home region of Yekaterinburg.

"He and his team saved 233 lives. They are heroes." - AFP

WORLD