MOSCOW: A Russian pilot was being hailed as a hero on Thursday (Aug 15) for landing an Airbus carrying more than 230 people in a Moscow corn field after a bird strike.
The Ural Airlines' Airbus 321 flying to Crimea with 233 people on board 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, forcing the pilots to land in the field about one km from Zhukovsky International Airport, south-east of Moscow, the agency added.
The plane landed with its engines off and the landing gear retracted.
"There was an emergency landing in Zhukovsky. Birds got into both engines. Engines turned off, the crew carried out the landing," Ural Airlines general director, Sergei Skuratov, was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.
The aircraft, carrying 226 passengers and seven crew, was evacuated using inflatable ramps, with some passengers taken to hospital and others back to the airport.
The health ministry said 23 people were hospitalised, including nine children. Seven people were being kept in for observation, including a 28-year-old man who suffered a concussion.
"It all happened in a few seconds ... We took off and came back down," passenger Irina Usacheva told state television channel Rossiya 24.
The pilot, 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."
Safety concerns have plagued Russia's airline industry since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, though standards are widely recognised to have sharply risen on international routes in particular in recent years.