6 times hero pilots averted disaster and saved the day
On September 7, 2010 an Alrosa Airlines TU-154 was travelling from Russia’s eastern Yakutia region to Moscow with 72 people on board. At an altitude of some 10,600 meters (34,500 ft) over the Taiga, Captain Evgeny Novoselov noticed the autopilot was malfunctioning. Soon after, all the other electronics on board began shutting down.
Without electricity, fuel pumps or landing equipment, the crew were in a race against the clock to prevent the plane falling from the sky. Suddenly, an opening appeared in the cloud cover and the flight crew saw a river, a forest, and then... a runway. It was a non-functioning airport with a runway unfit for this type of plane, but proved to be a lifesaver.
When the crew eventually landed the plane, it slid some 164 meters off the runway. Unbelievably, none of the 81 people on board were injured. The airline planned to write the aircraft off but, even more incredulously, the plane managed to take off from the Izhma runway and eventually returned to active service after repairs.
2. Miracle on the Hudson
On January 15, 2009, a US Airways Airbus A320 jetliner, piloted by Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger had just taken off when suddenly both engines cut out.
A birdstrike involving a flock of geese shortly after takeoff caused both engines to shut down and the plane began gliding as it slowly lost altitude. Sully initially attempted to return to the airport but knew he wouldn’t make it and opted instead to try a risky emergency landing on the freezing cold waters of New York City’s Hudson River.
All 155 people on board were pulled to safety by first responders as the aircraft sank into the icy waters. The entire crew of Flight 1549 was awarded the Master’s Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators for their heroics.
3. The Gimli Glider
On July 23, 1983, Air Canada Flight 143 from Montreal to Edmonton was cruising at an altitude of 41,000 feet when, without warning, at the midway point of the flight, the cockpit instruments went dark and the Boeing 767-233 ran out of fuel. The plane had no power except for an emergency ram-air turbine (RAT).
With only a handful of backup gauges to give the pilots the aircraft’s basic speed, altitude, and heading, the aircraft slowed. The RAT output decreased, making the hydraulic controls even harder to operate. Despite all of this adversity, the flight crew managed to land safely, and without injuries, at Gimli Industrial Park Airport.
An investigation into the incident found that the plane had been underfuelled prior to take off as a result of a misunderstanding of the recently adopted metric system which had replaced the imperial measurement system.
4. LOT Polish Airlines landing on two wheels
On January 10, 2018, Chopin Airport, Warsaw’s main international airport, was shut down for four hours after an emergency landing by a LOT Polish Airlines flight from Krakow to Warsaw.
The pilot was forced into the unenviable position of landing a plane with 59 passengers on board without the use of its front wheel. Like a true professional, however, the pilot managed to land the aircraft safely and not a single passenger or crew member was injured.
5. United Airlines Flight 1175
On February 14, 2018, passengers on board United Flight 1175 from San Francisco to Honolulu noticed that the casing had flown off one of the aircraft’s engines.
Passengers uploaded hair-raising images of the exposed Boeing 777 aircraft engine but thankfully no one was injured and the flight crew managed to land without incident or injury.
6. Southwest Airlines Flight 1380
Pilot Tammie Jo Shults, one of the first female fighter pilots in US Navy history, and the first to fly an F-18 fighter, overcame the seemingly impossible challenge of landing a passenger aircraft safely following a catastrophic engine failure.
A 43-year-old woman was killed after being almost sucked out of a shattered cabin window when one of the aircraft’s engines exploded.
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