A Russian passenger jet flew into a flock of birds then crash-landed in a cornfield just outside a Moscow airport Thursday, according to Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency.
The Ural Airlines Airbus A321 was carrying 226 passengers and a crew of seven from Moscow’s Zhukovsky airport to Simferopol — a city on the Crimean Peninsula — when it ran into trouble.
Shortly after takeoff, the plane “collided with a flock of gulls,” according a statement from the agency.
Some of the birds were sucked into its engines, it added.
The emergency landing took place in a field less than a kilometer (0.62 miles) away from the airport’s runway.
Videos posted to social media show the passengers of flight U6178 evacuating from the plane and making a path through the field.
In one video, a female passenger walking through the tall green stalks can be heard saying “second birth,” noting that she was lucky to just be alive.
Pilot Damir Yusupov, 41, and co-pilot Georgy Murzin, 23, were praised by the airline for their professionalism in difficult circumstances.
“Precisely due to their professionalism, self-possession and coordinated actions (they) managed to land a plane without tragic consequences,” a Ural Airlines statement said.
Yusupov has clocked up more than 3,000 flight hours, the airline said. He graduated with honors in 2013 from St. Petersburg State University of Civil Aviation and was hired by the company immediately after graduating.
Murzin graduated from the same university in 2017, was hired last year, and has a total of 600 flying hours, it said.
In a video posted on Russian social media platform VKontakte, Murzin detailed how the pair managed to bring the plane down safely.
“After takeoff, birds got caught in the engines, with the left engine stalling immediately,” Murzin said.
“Then they got caught in the second engine and it became unstable, and also stalled. There wasn’t enough thrust, and we lost altitude. We landed in a field manually — the commander took control,” he added.
Up to 55 passengers, including 17 children, have been given medical attention, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing a source in the regional Center for Disaster Medicine. Six have been hospitalized, it said.
In a statement, Ural Airlines said that the plane had been significantly damaged and would not be in service in the future, TASS reported.
Yekaterina Korotkova, a spokesperson for the Moscow Inter-Regional Transport Prosecutor’s Office, told TASS that a probe has been opened into the accident.
In May, at least 41 people on board a Russian Aeroflot SU1492 jet were killed after the aircraft crash-landed at a Moscow airport on Sunday, bursting into flames on impact.
And in June, two passengers were killed on a Angara Airlines flight in Siberia after it overshot the runway and burst into flames.