MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday awarded the nation’s highest medal, the Hero of Russia, to the pilot who managed to smoothly land his disabled passenger plane in a cornfield after a flock of birds hit both engines and knocked them out.
The experienced captain, 41-year-old Damir Yusupov, said Friday that a quick landing was his only chance and he was not afraid of handling it. He said he had hoped to circle the airport and land normally when one engine shut down due to the bird strike moments after taking off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport. But then his second engine cut off moments later, leaving him no choice.
He landed his Ural Airlines A321 so gently in the head-high corn that just one of the 233 people on board was hospitalized.
People all across Russian have hailed Yusupov as a hero — the accolades he said were embarrassing.