Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded the nation’s highest medal, the Hero of Russia, to a Ural Airlines pilot. Damir Yusupov landed his passenger plane in a cornfield after a flock of birds knocked out both engines. But the pilot insists the title “hero” doesn’t suit him.
Birds frequently get sucked into jet engines, even though airports use various methods to chase them away from runways. Plane engines simply aren’t designed to withstand strikes from multiple birds or larger birds.
Moments after Yusupov took off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport, one of his engines shut down after it inhaled a bird. He had hoped to circle the airport and land normally. But when his second engine cut off moments later, he knew a quick landing was his only choice.
Yusupov landed Ural Airlines A321 gently in a field of head-high corn. Only one of the 233 people on board was hurt badly enough to be hospitalized.
Some officials suggest the flock of gulls that hit Yusupov’s plane may have been attracted by an illegal garbage dump near the airport. Local authorities confirm there are several dumpsites in the area, including an unapproved one.
People all across Russia have named Yusupov a hero. He calls the praise embarrassing. “It feels odd and I’m shy,” he says.
Putin gave awards to Yusupov and the plane’s second pilot, Georgy Murzin. He also bestowed awards on the cabin crew.
“I didn’t feel any fear,” Yusupov says. “I saw a cornfield ahead and hoped to make a reasonably soft landing.”
Yusupov hailed his cabin crew, who evacuated the passengers. He also apologized to passengers for failing to get them to their destination—Simferopol in Crimea. He says, “I wish a quick recovery to all those injured, and I wish them not to be afraid of flying.”
What does being a hero mean to you? Does your definition fit Damir Yusupov?
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1
(Damir Yusupov speaks to the media in Yekaterinburg, Russia. AP Photo)