MOSCOW — A Russian passenger jet crash-landed into a cornfield shortly after takeoff from Moscow on Thursday, injuring 23 people, but remarkably, no one was killed, according to Russian media reports and the national aviation regulator Rosaviatsia.
Ural Airlines Flight 178 collided with a flock of gulls just after leaving Zhukovsky International Airport near Moscow, severely damaging the aircraft’s engines and forcing it to make the emergency landing less than a mile from the airport.
“Thanks to the professionalism of pilots and the crew, there were no serious injuries and damages among the passengers,” the Russian Health Ministry said in a statement.
The airliner, an Airbus A321, had 226 passengers and seven crew members onboard and was bound for Simferopol in Crimea, Rosaviatsia said in a statement. An investigation into the incident has begun.
Photos and videos shared online by passengers shortly after the crash-landing show the jet, its slides deployed, nestled between tall cornstalks as stunned passengers look back at the downed plane.
“About five seconds after takeoff, the plane began to shake heavily,” an unnamed passenger told Rossiya-24, a Russian news network.
“Then five seconds later lamps on the right side of the plane began to flash and there was a smell of burning,” he said. “Then we landed.”
One of the passengers shared a photo of the plane in the field after being evacuated with a short message: “My plane crashed.”
Another video taken from above shows the plane with a trail behind it, showing where it had skidded to a halt through the field.
Russian news outlets called the pilot — identified by the airline as Damir Yusupov, 41 — a hero for his skillful landing of the plane. His co-pilot, Georgy Muruzin, is just 23 years old, the company said. News outlets hailed the incident as a “miracle over the Ramenskoe,” referring to the area outside Moscow where the plane came down.
The episode was reminiscent of the 2009 crash landing on the Hudson River near Manhattan — which soon became known as “the miracle on the Hudson” — of a US Airways flight with 155 passengers onboard. It, too, was an Airbus plane that struck a flock of birds shortly after takeoff, causing it to lose power in both engines.
In each case, the pilot was able to carry out an emergency landing away from the airport without any loss of life.
The plane was bound for Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, a peninsula that the Kremlin annexed in 2014 and is one of the most popular vacation spots in the country.
Russia has been plagued by a series of plane accidents over the past years, with the most recent one happening in May, when an Aeroflot plane made an emergency landing in flames that led to the deaths of 41 people.