The hero pilot of a packed Russian airliner downed by a bird strike called his wife moments after safely landing the plane and checking everyone was alright.
Damir Yusupov miraculously managed to bring the massive Airbus-321 down in a cornfield moments after it lost both engines when it ploughed into gulls.
Only one of the 233 people on board was hurt seriously enough to be hospitalised thanks to the smooth landing. Quick thinking Cpt Yusupov, 41, was hailed for managing to steady the aircraft after it took off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport.
The Ural Airlines plane, en route to Simferopol in Crimea, smashed straight into a flock of birds that got sucked into both engines.
Captain Yusupov, who reportedly received treatment in hospital after the crash, told Russian media he did not consider himself a hero.He added that he initially thought he would have to return to the airport until the second engine failed.
He said: “Engine power was not enough to continue the flight, even to maintain the altitude that we had occupied by that time. The height was not significant. Initially, there was a decision to turn around, land the plane, but when I saw that the second engine also failed. There was little time. But when they saw that the second engine was also failing, I had a decision – to land the plane just in front of me.
“After the evacuation of passengers I got out, went around the plane, examined the external damage, made sure that everything was at a safe distance. I returned to the cockpit and from there called my wife. Many people say that I am a hero, but to be honest, I don’t feel like a hero at all, because I did what I had to do: saved the plane, passengers, crew.”
Yusupov’s wife told Rossiya state television from their home in Yekaterinburg that he called her after landing.
She said: “He called me and said: ‘Everything is fine, everyone is alive.’ I asked what was it, and he said that birds hit the engine and we landed in a field. I was horrified and in panic and burst into tears.”
Aviation agency chief Alexander Neradko said the crew “made the only right decision” to immediately land the fully loaded plane.
He said: “The crew has shown courage and professionalism and deserve the highest state awards”.
“Just imagine what the consequences would be if the crew didn’t make the correct decision.”