Russia: Plane crash-lands after hitting flock of birds

Rescue crews attended to the plane following the emergency landing
Rescue crews attended to the plane following the emergency landing (Reuters) 

(BBC) A Russian passenger plane has made an emergency landing in a cornfield near Moscow after striking a flock of birds.

Fifty-five people reportedly sought medical treatment after the incident, which saw the plane land with its engines off and landing gear retracted.

The Ural Airlines Airbus 321 was travelling to Simferopol in Crimea when it hit the flock of gulls shortly after take-off, disrupting its engines.

State media has dubbed the landing the “miracle over Ramensk”.

The Kremlin on Thursday hailed the pilots as heroes for “saving people’s lives and landing the plane”. A spokesman said they would receive state awards soon.

The airline said the plane was significantly damaged and would not fly again. An official investigation is under way.

The plane had more than 230 passengers and crew on board when the birds were reportedly sucked into its engines and the crew immediately decided to land.

An unnamed passenger told state TV the plane started to shake violently after take-off.

“Five seconds later, the lights on the right side of the plane started flashing and there was a smell of burning. Then we landed and everyone ran away,” he said.

Air transport agency Rosaviatsia said the plane landed in a cornfield about a kilometre (0.62 miles) from the runway at Zhukovsky International Airport, with its engines off and landing gear retracted.

Passengers were evacuated from the plane, with 55 then seeking medical treatment and six taken to hospital, medical sources told state news agency Tass.

Seventeen children were among those to seek medical treatment, Tass reported.

Ural Airlines Director General Kirill Skuratov told the news agency that passengers who wanted to continue with their trip would be put on alternative flights.

Russian media compared the incident to the US Airways flight that carried out an emergency landing on the Hudson River shortly after take-off in 2009.

Collisions between birds and planes are a common occurrence in aviation, with thousands reported every year in the US alone. However, they rarely result in accidents or cause damage to the aircraft.