How “flying Tatar man” organised second birthday for 200 passengers

The pilots will be bestowed awards for the successful gear-up landing

The U6178 flight Airbus A321 of Ural Airlines, which carried from 226 to 234 people on board according to different information (the latest data suggests 233 people) had a hard landing next to Zhukovsky Airport in Moscow because of seagulls sucked into the engines. The plane landed without gears and full fuel tanks in a cornfield. Thanks to the mastery and heroism of two young pilots, particularly Damir Yusupov who became the first pilot only a year ago, nobody of 200 passengers died. Yusupov, ex-lawyer and functionary from Samara Oblast who also worked in the local community of the Tatars, became a pilot only after 30 years of his love for the sky, but Ak Bars HC and Rubin FC from Tatarstan have been on his board since 2013.

How commercial plane had to land in a cornfield because of birds

A Ural Airlines Airbus A321 operating the flight U6178, which had from 226 to 234 people on board according to different data, had a hard landing next to Zhukovsky airport in Moscow on 15 August morning. The plane was flying to Crimea, Simferopol. According to the airline’s urgent message, “all people were evacuated from plane, there weren’t violations, neither was there a fuel leak, no fatalities, according to preliminary information nobody has been injured” (later it became known about 55 injured people, 23 of them including nine children and one pregnant woman were taken to hospital).

The first version of the emergency landing appeared almost immediately: birds got to the plane’s both engines, the airline said, “an engine began burning, the crew said about it after the emergency landing the A321 skidded off the runway”. The plane had to land in a cornfield in Ramenskoye District near Moscow, a kilometre far from the airport’s runway. The Russian Air Transport Agency has already claimed that seagulls were meant as birds. According to second pilot Georgy Murzin, a bird sucked into the left engine first, then it stalled, then the same thing happened to the second engine: “The revolutions didn’t run smoothly, there was a lack of power, the height was gradually falling”.

Despite a number of messages in social networks and some mass media that a flock of seagulls regularly impede planes from taking off and landing at Zhukovsky because of the absence of a bird deterrent system, the airport assured that they worked as normal: “Before the flight, all procedures including the examination of the runway for a migration of birds were carried out”. Nevertheless, the Russian Air Transport Agency claimed that though there was so far no necessity to check the airline and the airport, the Gromov Flight Research Institute, which is responsible for the protection of the airport from birds, will certainly check them. The investigative committee launched a case on Article 263 of the Criminal Code on violation of air traffic safety and use of aircraft.

Pilots to be bestowed awards for successful hard landing without chassis

The names of pilots who immediately became heroes became public soon: the passengers themselves welcomed the successful landing of the plane, moreover, with gears up almost on the belly, with full fuel tanks (!) with applause. The pilots turned out to be quite young men — 41-year-old Captain Damir Yusupov with just more than 3,000 flight hours (just 1,5 times more than needed to become an aircraft captain) and 23-year-old Georgy Murzin with just 600 flight hours.

Though the plane crew was forbidden from flying during the investigation (it is a standard procedure), the Russian president’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov claimed that “there is no doubt the pilots will be bestowed awards”: “The president makes a decision to give awards. After the heroes are given the awards, formalities will be completed in the short run. There is doubt of it, and they will be awarded”. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also urged to award them.

“Miracle above Zhukovsky”: why pilot Damir Yusupov landed the plane without chassis

The young pilots’ mastery was noted in the mass media and social networks, especially the mastery of Damir Yusupov, the miraculous landing above Zhukovsky was compared with the “miracle above the Hudson River” when American pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed a plane in January 2009. It also happened after a clash with a flock of birds, and both engines failed in the Hudson River (all 150 passengers and five crew members survived). The pilots think that the quality of the A321’s landing means that Yusupov exercised his actions in such actions so much that he could do that blindfold.

One can see in the video in the Net that during the evacuation of passengers from the cabin along the evacuation slide Damir Yusupov coordinated their actions through a megaphone. Experts pay attention to the peculiarity of the decisions the pilot made: the plane was landed with gears up, which isn’t recommended, for instance, by Airbus’s manufacturer — the planes are recommended to be landed gear up in the water, not on land. However, experts and pilots think that the team could not have the time to gear down, which takes much time (“a gear leg might go down, the other might not, the plane can be spun during the touch”). Damir Yusupov had to consider the field’s rough surface, which could have broken the leg if the gears were down, the fuel tanks could have been damaged and exploded — this recently happened at Sheremetyevo during the landing of the Sukhoi Superjet 100.

Damir Yusupov: ex-lawyer in administration who became pilot 30 years later because of love for sky

People in the Net were surprised even more when they learnt that Damir Yusupov who was born in Igarka in Krasnoyarsk Krai worked as a usual lawyer in the administration of Syzran in Samara Oblast, in the Housing and Mortgage Fund and was the vice director of the urban autonomy of the Tatars before turning 30-33 years. Though, according to him, he has dreamed about working as a pilot since he was a boy (his father was a captain of Mi-8 helicopter). But he didn’t manage to do a medical examination when he wanted to enter an aviation college. In an interview with Dialogue newspaper in Sverdlovsk (it is printed on ProPolevskoy website in the city of Polevskoy in Sverdlovsk Oblast where Yusupov’s family lives), he said that he decided to try to become a pilot after 30 years. At 32 years, the former lawyer entered the Buguruslan Civil Aviation College, graduated cum laude. In 2013, he also graduated from the Saint Petersburg State Civil Aviation University. He has piloted the planes Airbus A320, 319, 321. “I will remember my first flight for the rest of my life, we piloted An-1 in the college. I didn’t even believe that I was navigating the plane, I was flying,” Damir said in the interview for the local newspaper. In 2013, Damir Yusupov obtained a certificate of commercial aviation pilot and was accepted to Ural Airlines. In 2018, Yusupov got the second degree having graduated from the Ulyanovsk Civil Aviation Institute in Air Navigation. He became an aircraft captain also in 2018.

By the way, the Syzran community of the Tatars hasn’t forgotten about Yusupov. Chairman of the National Cultural Autonomy of the Tatars of Syzran Rinad Sharadutdinov called him “a hero who deserves the title of hero” on the official website of Syzran Tatars: “I’ve known him personally for many years. Damir was an active helper, vice chairman of the council and specialist in juridical affairs in the National Cultural Autonomy of the Tatars of Syzran. He dedicated many years to the activity of the Tatar organisation. He is a truthful, honest, incredibly modest, educated person and a very competent specialist. In 2017, Damir Yusupov was awarded Honorary Diplomate during the celebration dedicated for the 10th anniversary of the National Cultural Autonomy of the Tatars of Syzran in the hall of the A. Tolstoy Drama Theatre, the main stage of our city.” Sharafutdinov called Damir Yusupov “a hero-pilot, true Tatar man, real man”.

Before he became aircraft captain, Yusupov transported Ak Bars and Rubin teams

It was said in a report of the local newspaper about unusual locals (Polevskoy is located 20 km from Yekaterinburg) as of February 2017 that Yusupov had been a pilot for just four years and was a second pilot. He navigated the planes Airbus A320, 319, 321. He mainly flew across Russia, to China, Middle Asia, Turkey, Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Egypt. He operated charter flights from time to time, which athletes took to go to a competition site: “Ak Bars HC and Rubin FC as well as the Russian national figure skating team were on the board of his plane”.

Yusupov met his wife also in the sky, already a civil aviation pilot but as a passenger going to Krasnodar on a business trip. His page where many are now thanking Yusupov now includes Aviation, Viktor Tsoy, Cinema, SKY FLIGHT, Ural Airlines, Mi-8, Mil Design Bureau, Aviation, Planes, Air Crashes, Pilots and so on among its interests. According to the social page, Damir Yusupov already visited his page at 14.17, his spouse told the local newspaper that her husband called at 8.40 a.m. — the plane had an emergency landing at 8.20. His spouse Natalia said that she still hardly believes in what happened, “despite the incident, she isn’t going to forbid her spouse from flying, as he has dreamed of flying, the sky since he was a child”.

How planes attack flocks of birds

If nobody is complaining about the pilots, there are questions for the ornithological assistance of flights. It should be reminded that there was a similar case in Kazan where a Pobeda plane had an emergency landing on 15 July evening, which was heading to Saint Petersburg. There weren’t victims. The cause was almost the same — a bird in the left engine of Boeing-737-800. A plane that took off in Petersburg had an emergency landing in Greece because of a clash with a bird a week before that. Rossiya airline clashed a bird on 10 July when operating a flight 5791 from Petersburg to Corfu: the plane successfully landed on the Greek island.

In 2017, also in July, a plane of Turkish Onur Air operating the flight Kazan — Antalya had an emergency landing at the airport of Kazan. The engine of the plane, which departed from the Tatarstan capital at 14.00, got a flock of birds. The plane that just crossed the Volga River had to suddenly turn back. The flock of birds clashed with the plane 30 minutes after the take-off. After examination, they didn’t find damages. A “miracle above the Volga River” took place in 1953 when Il-12 plane operating a flight Moscow — Kazan — Novosibirsk faced a flock of ducks at the height of 300 metres and had to have a hard landing on the Volga River — everyone survived except a passenger who put on a coat before leaving the plane and sank.

Number of accidents because of birds grows but number of victims is low

As we already wrote, according to data of the Russian Air Transport Agency itself and the Russian Aviation Ornithology Group, the number of clashes of planes with birds has grown in the last years, while carriers complain that Russian airports “are less safe in this respect”. According to the Russian Air Transport Agency, there were 930 clashes with birds for 11 months in 2018 (more than a thousand in 2018). There were 926 cases in 2017.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the engine and the plane’s wing are damaged in clashes with birds (40% of all cases), the windshield, the radar antenna, the fuselage, voltage regulator, lights and gear are damaged less. Blows on the engine and the windshield are the most dangerous one (pressurisation loop). But the engine fails only in 3% of cases when a bird is sucked into it.

Clashes with birds often take place during take-off, initial ascension, approach for landing and landing itself. In 50% of cases with a clash with a bird during take-off, a pilot performs a forced landing, in 21% the pilot stops take-off. Despite the rise in the number of clashes, the amount of accidents and catastrophes because of birds isn’t high (1 billion hours) — thanks to aircraft engineers’ solutions. The most serious plane clash with birds was in Boston in 1969 when 62 people died: in Russia, it is a catastrophe of An-12 ATRAN airline after take-off at Domodedovo in 2007, seven people died. However, the annual damage of clashes with birds costs the world’s commercial aviation only over $1 billion.

How Russian Air Transport Agency urges to fight problem of birds

The Russian Air Transport Agency thinks that the problem of birds was caused by a human factor — the vicinity of airports to residential districts and waster. In 2018, the agency offered the solve the problem of birds by reducing and annihilation of birds and bushes, getting rid of still water and cutting the grass. The Russian Air Transport Agency also advised airports to reduce risks of landfills and agricultural lands close to aerodromes. Airports themselves fight birds in different ways: Domodedovo, for instance, has five northern goshawks in service, other airports apply shots and special sounds of “panic” for birds.

Was there a landfill or not? Agencies find out the reason why flock of seagulls appeared above the aerodrome

Rumours that there is a big landfill next to Zhukovsky airport where flocks of seagulls feed themselves immediately appeared after the emergency landing. The Ministry of Ecology of Moscow Oblast called the rumours that the A321 clashed with birds from local landfills wrong. According to the region’s minister of ecology, the bird that feed themselves on landfills “never leave the landfills, and Safono training area, which closed in 2012, is the closest site to the emergency landing, 14 km far. Nevertheless, the Russian Ministry of Nature claimed they would check if there was a landfill next to Zhukovsky airport. So according to legislation, landfills are prohibited in the radius of 15 km from the aerodrome’s control point.

However, before the emergency with the A321, there was no inspection in this area. Honourable test pilot of the USSR Viktor Zabolotsky said that Zhukovsky had plenty of seagulls anyway, because the Moscow River is close, “in addition, there is a landfill there where they are ‘pastured’”: “As a rule, the lane gets hot during the day, and flocks of seagulls sit on the lane”.

By Sergey Afanasyev