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Meet the hero pilots who saved 233 lives in ‘miracle’ belly landing of jet in field

Meet the hero pilots who saved 233 lives in ‘miracle’ belly landing of jet in field
With just seconds to act, two pilots managed to land a disabled Airbus jet in a field near Moscow after a huge birdstrike had stalled its engines – and the heroic moment is already being compared to the 2009 miracle on the Hudson.

Against the odds, Captain Damir Yusupov and First Officer Georgy Murzin managed to land Ural Airlines’ Airbus 321 after it hit a dense flock of birds during take-off from Zhukovsky International Airport, south-east of Moscow. The strike stalled both engines and thrust all on board into a harrowing life-or-death situation.

Yet the pilots’ meticulous and miraculous plan ‘belly-landed’ the plane in a large cornfield, clear of any houses or buildings, and saved all 226 passengers and 7 crew members. Here’s what we know about them.

Also on rt.com ‘We’re all alive thanks to pilot’: Passengers recall dramatic Ural Airlines’ belly-landing

Damir Yusupov  

Born in Siberia, the 41-year-old Yusupov isn’t a typical career pilot with tens of thousands of flight hours under his belt. In fact, he has only racked up about three-thousand hours of flight time. That’s just twice the minimum amount required to become an aircraft commander – yet this proved to be no impediment to him when faced with a crisis.

There were other options and it’s good that we didn't use them – if we had tried to go back, I don't know what would have happened.

Rejected from flight school on medical grounds in his teens, Yusupov trained as a lawyer instead. Not content to give up on his dream, he retrained as a pilot later, graduating with honors. His fellow cadets and colleagues describe him as calm, modest and professional – qualities which no doubt stood in his favor in a moment of peril.

Yusupov explained to reporters at a press conference in Moscow on Thursday that he’d originally wanted to turn the plane around, but when he saw that the second engine had also failed, he knew it was clear that hitting the ground was going to be “inevitable.”

The crew decided to land the plane without the landing gear because there was a risk that the aircraft could “roll over” and the consequences could be much worse. “I tried to land the plane softly so that the touchdown came with a minimum vertical speed,” he said. 

“I don’t feel like a hero," he added, “because I just did what I had to do to save the plane, passengers and crew.”

Georgy Murzin

Yusupov’s 23-year-old co-pilot Georgy Murzin received his license just two years ago. He graduated from St. Petersburg State University of Civil Aviation in 2017 and was hired by Ural Airlines in 2018.  

The young pilot had accumulated only 600 flight hours when he found himself in a situation no pilot ever wants to face.

The revolutions were unstable, the thrust was not enough, the height was gradually falling – the commander took control.

‘Textbook emergency landing’

“I take my hat off to the pilots and to everyone on board ... because this was a textbook emergency landing,” aviation security expert Julian Bray told RT.

The pilots “did brilliantly because they were really quite low when the bird strike took place and the engine power dropped away almost completely,” said David Learmont, consulting editor of Flightglobal magazine. “Russia does have a history of having very good pilots, it’s a profession that the Russians are very proud of having,” he said.

Russian media has also lavished praise on the two men and their crew for saving more than 200 lives. The Kremlin has also applauded the “hero pilots” with presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov promising to award them once all formalities are dealt with.

Also on rt.com 6 times hero pilots averted disaster and saved the day

The incident has naturally drawn comparisons with the 2009 emergency landing involving US Airways Flight 1549 which struck a flock of geese, lost power in all of its engines and forced hero pilot Chesley Sullenberger to perform a miraculous landing on the icy Hudson River. 

Sullenberger was later honored by then-US President George W. Bush for his  swift-thinking which saved the lives of all 155 passengers, who were rescued from the wings of the plane by nearby boats.

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