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15 Aug, 2019 15:05

‘Moscow Miracle?’ Quick-thinking Russian pilots hailed for safely landing airliner after birdstrike

‘Moscow Miracle?’ Quick-thinking Russian pilots hailed for safely landing airliner after birdstrike

The two Russian pilots who performed an emergency landing in a cornfield after their airliner hit a flock of birds carried out a feat on par with the much-celebrated ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, aviation experts told RT.

Captain Damir Yusupov and First Officer Georgy Murzin manually landed their A321 Airbus in a cornfield just 1km from Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport, after their airplane struck “numerous” seagulls or crows shortly after takeoff.

Notably, the pilots decided to glide to a stop without putting down the plane’s landing gear. Their quick-thinking is credited with saving the lives of all 226 passengers and seven crew members on board. The Kremlin has already announced that the pair will be decorated for their heroism.

Another ‘miracle’?

Aviation experts have been quick to draw parallels between Thursday’s incident and the famous ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, in which a US Airways flight made an emergency landing after colliding with a flock of geese. The pilots decided to land the plane in the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew.

RAF instructor David Learmount described the two incidents as “identical” – except that the American pilots “got a little bit higher before the birds hit them,” giving them more time to react.

“Like this event, everybody survived. And like this event, the pilot did not put the gear down,” Learmount noted.

Aviation expert Julan Bray agreed with the comparison.

“[Captain Yusupov] took a calculated risk. He decided to go for what we call a ‘belly flop’. And he landed it beautifully.”

‘A textbook emergency landing’

Choosing the cornfield to make their impromptu landing, coupled with the decisions to cut the engines and forgo deploying the landing gear, were critical decisions which likely saved lives.


Learmount pointed out that the landing gear would have snapped off it had come in contact with the soft soil of the cornfield, arguing that the pilots made the right decision to land without it, even though they had “very, very little time” to act. He noted that complications with the landing gear could have ruptured a fuel tank, increasing the likelihood of a fire.

“These pilots did brilliantly because they were really quite low [to the ground],” he said.

What the pilots did under the circumstances was “absolutely right,” Bray told RT, adding that there was no fire because the plane’s crew “very correctly followed procedure.”

I take my hat off to the two pilots and to everybody on board, the crew and the passengers. Because this was a textbook emergency landing. Nobody panicked, everybody got off.

The decision to land in a cornfield was particularly adept, Bray said.

“Corn is quite an oily crop, so you’ve got ready-made lubricant in that field. So it’s like landing on an ice rink. But it was a nice, gentle landing.”

Citing photographs and videos of the crash scene, Bray marveled at the technique and skill employed by the pilots to land the plane safely.

Also on rt.com Spine chilling CABIN VIDEO captures emergency landing of packed Russian passenger jet

“The plane slides in a straight line, it isn’t veering off its course. So I think [they] knew exactly where [they] was going to put it down. And [they] calculated how long the slide would be.”

The impressive feat of aviation is something of a national tradition, Learmount said.

“Russia does have a history of having very good pilots.”

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