MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian pilot who managed to smoothly land his disabled plane in a cornfield Thursday after birds hit both engines says a quick landing was his only chance and he was not afraid of handling it.
Damir Yusupov, 41, said when one of the plane’s engines shut down he hoped to circle the airport and land normally, but then second engine cut off moments later, leaving him no choice. He landed his A321 so smoothly that just one of the 233 people on board was hospitalized.
Yusupov’s feat drew comparisons to the 2009 “miracle on the Hudson,” when Capt. Chesley Sullenberger safely ditched his plane in New York’s Hudson River after a bird strike disabled its engines.
Yusupov told reporters Friday he “saw a cornfield ahead and hoped to make a reasonably soft landing.”
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Russia’s Rosaviatsiya state aviation agency chief, Alexander Neradko, told reporters that the crew “made the only right decision” to immediately land the fully loaded plane with its wheels up after both of its engines malfunctioned.
“The crew has shown courage and professionalism and deserve the highest state awards,” he said, adding that the plane was fully loaded with 16 tons of fuel. “Just imagine what the consequences would be if the crew didn’t make the correct decision.”
The airline said Yusupov, the son of a helicopter pilot, is an experienced pilot who has logged over 3,000 flight hours. Yusupov worked as a lawyer before he changed course and joined a flight school when he was 32. A father of four, he has flown with Ural Airlines since his graduation in 2013. He became a captain last year.
The Ural Airlines A321 was carrying 226 passengers and a crew of seven as it took off Thursday from Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport en route to Simferopol in Crimea.
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