On Friday, August 16, 2019, Ural Airlines Flight 178 departed Moscow’s recently opened Zhukovsky International Airport at 6:12 AM, destined for Simferopol, Crimea with 226 passengers and seven crew members on board. Less than two minutes into the flight, the 41-year-old captain, Damir Yusupov, and his 23-year-old co-pilot, Georgy Murzin, informed the control tower that the Airbus 321’s left engine had failed. Upon receiving permission to return to the airport for an emergency landing, they discovered that a flock of birds had also knocked out the plane’s remaining engine, and they lacked the altitude to make it back to the runway.
Drawing on his emergency landing trainings in a flight simulator at Ural Airlines, Yusupov decided to stop the fuel supply to the engines and glide the jet onto a nearby cornfield without lowering the plane’s undercarriage.* After the plane skidded to a stop, passengers and crew were evacuated via escape slides and told to move away from the aircraft as quickly as possible. Everyone aboard survived the ordeal, with only one passenger requiring a hospital stay. Yusupov and Murzin were hailed as national heroes in the media, performing “Moscow’s miracle on the Hudson” (a refence to Captain Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles’ 2009 landing of a commercial A320 on the Hudson River after engine failure caused by an impact with a flock of birds).
Both pilots were bestowed the nation’s highest honor, Hero of Russia, in a ceremony at the Kremlin the following November. Yusupov underplayed his role in remarks to the press: “I really don’t feel like a hero. I did what I had to do, saved the plane, the passengers, the crew.”
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