A Russian pilot was being hailed as a hero on Thursday for landing an Airbus carrying more than 230 people in a Moscow corn field after a bird strike.
The Ural Airlines A321 flying to Crimea hit a flock of seagulls shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky airport on Thursday morning, the Rosaviatsia air transport agency said in a statement.
Birds were sucked into the engines and the crew decided to immediately land, bringing the plane down in the corn field about a kilometer from the runway, with the engines off and the landing gear retracted.
The aircraft, carrying 226 passengers and seven crew, was evacuated using inflatable ramps.
The health ministry said 23 people were sent to hospital but there were no serious injuries. Only one patient, a 69-year-old woman with moderate injuries, required further hospitalization, it said.
“It all happened in a few seconds… We took off and came back down,” passenger Irina Usacheva told state television channel Rossiya 24.
Passenger Svetlana Babina said the bird strike could be heard from inside the plane and that the engines started making “strange noises”.
“We have to pay tribute to the pilot, in the circumstances he landed as softly as possible,” she told the RIA Novosti news agency.
“Everyone is alive! The pilot is a genius,” passenger Olga told tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, saying applause broke out following the landing.
The pilot, identified as 41-year-old Yekaterinburg native Damir Yusupov, was praised for his quick thinking.
“The crew of the Ural Airlines flight showed fantastic skill and cool-headedness,” said Yevgeny Kuyvashev, the governor of Yusupov’s home region.
“He and his team saved 233 lives. They are heroes.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also hailed the “hero pilots” who landed the plane.
– Illegal dumps near airports –
Russia’s investigative committee said it had opened a probe into the incident.
The committee posted a video on its website of the plane on its belly in the field of corn, with the evacuation ramps deployed. Investigators could be seen examining the interior of the cockpit.
The plane had been flying to Simferopol, the main city in Russian-annexed Crimea, a popular summer destination for many Russians.
Zhukovsky, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Moscow city centre, opened in 2016 as Moscow’s fourth international airport. A Soviet-era test flight centre, it hosts the biennial MAKS international aviation show.
Several experts pointed to a growing problem of birds gathering at illegal dumping sites close to Moscow’s airports.
“The problem with birds is enormous,” aviation safety expert Alexander Romanov told RIA Novosti. “It comes from, among other things, landfills that are scattered in violation of all regulations.”
Residents close to Zhukovsky said an illegal landfill was located between the airport and the Moscow river and that seagulls gathered constantly there.
Russia was once notorious for plane accidents but its air traffic safety record has improved in recent years.
The last major accident was in May, when a Sukhoi Superjet belonging to national carrier Aeroflot crash-landed and burst into flames at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, killing 41 people.
The plane, bound for the Arctic city of Murmansk, turned around after being struck by lightning, bounced on the runway on landing and caught fire.
Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows tutoring GOP senators on what to ask in Q&A phase of impeachment trial: report
Congressmen Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Mark Meadows (R-NC), members of President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team, are reportedly coaching Republican senators ahead of the next portion of the Senate trial.
On Wednesday, the trial is expected to head into the question and answer phase. According CNN's Lauren Fox, Jordan and Meadows are helping to craft the questions that Republican senators will ask.
"Conservatives are starting to have a role in how conservative senators ask their questions," Fox explained. "There have been a couple of meetings between Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who are on the president's defense team, telling senators essentially, this is how you should go about the Q&A period."
Trump trade blunder results in US’s ‘biggest strategic defeat’ since WW2: Newt Gingrich
This Tuesday, UK prime minister Boris Johnson and other European leaders ignored the warnings of President Trump to drop ties with the Chinese telecoms company Huawei and went ahead with allowing the company to develop the 5G network on the continent -- a move that could trigger similar decisions from other world leaders, Business Insider reports.
Johnson's move comes in the wake of Trump warning America's European allies to enact a blanket ban on the company.
Rick Wilson: Bolton’s bombshell has GOP terrified of a long trial that will ‘grind them into dust’
Conservative political strategist Rick Wilson has published a new column in The Daily Beast that argues President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are "sh*tting bricks" at the prospect of former national security adviser John Bolton testifying.
Specifically, Wilson says that the leaked excerpts from Bolton's upcoming book have put a major political price on Republican senators who vote to acquit the president without even hearing a single witness.