The captain of a Russian passenger jet was hailed as a hero Thursday for landing his plane in a cornfield after it collided with a flock of gulls seconds after takeoff, causing both engines to malfunction. While dozens of people sought medical assistance, only one was hospitalized.
The event drew comparisons to the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson," when a captain ditched his plane in New York's Hudson River after a bird strike disabled his engines.
The Ural Airlines A321 carrying 226 passengers and a crew of seven hit the birds as it was taking off Thursday from Moscow's Zhukovsky airport en route for Simferopol, in Crimea.
Russia's Rosaviatsiya state aviation agency chief Alexander Neradko told reporters that the crew "made the only right decision" to land immediately after both of the plane's engines malfunctioned, landing in a field about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the runway.
"The crew has shown courage and professionalism and deserve the highest state awards," he said.
The airline said in a statement that the pilot shut down the engines to avoid fire as the plane landed with its fuel tanks fully loaded.
Ural Airlines lauded the crew for making the emergency landing and arranging a quick evacuation. The company said the captain, 41-year old Damir Yusupov, is a highly experienced pilot who has flown over 3,000 hours.
"It was quite a feat to keep the plane from stalling and quickly find a place to land," Viktor Zabolotsky, a former test pilot, said in televised remarks.
Russian television stations carried footage of passengers standing in the cornfield next to the plane, hugging the pilot and thanking him for saving their lives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, hailed the pilots as "heroes" and said they will receive state awards.
The Emergencies Ministry said that 55 people asked for medical assistance after the incident. The health authorities said 23 people, including five children, were taken to the hospital, but all but one were released following check-ups and quick treatment.
Plane engines are designed to withstand occasional bird strikes, but a collision with a flock of birds can result in serious trouble. Bird strikes on planes occur regularly around the world, and airports use bird distress signals, air cannons and other means to chase birds away - measures which aren't always efficient.
23 injured in Russian plane's emergency landing
A passenger jet made an emergency landing in a field outside of one of Moscow's airports Thursday after colliding with a flock of birds, injuring at least 23 people, Russian officials said.
The Ural Airlines A321 carrying 226 passengers and a crew of seven hit the birds as it took off Thursday from Moscow's Zhukovsky airport en route for Simferopol, in Crimea.
The airline said in a statement that the birds got into both of the plane's engines, causing them to malfunction. The pilot then made an emergency landing in a cornfield about 1 kilometer (half a mile) from the airport.
Russian health authorities said 23 people, including five children, were taken to the hospital, and all but one were released following check-ups and quick treatment.
Ural Airlines lauded the crew for its professionalism in arranging the evacuation. The company said the captain is a highly experienced pilot who had flown over over 3,000 hours.
Footage from the scene showed the flight commander directing the passengers to walk away from the plane across the cornfield.