Heart-stopping moment hero pilot flies completely ‘blind’ to bring 127 tourists safely to earth after golf ball-sized hailstones shatter the windscreen of his jet
Incredible footage has emerged of a hero pilot’s heartstopping emergency landing as he flew completely ‘blind’ to bring 127 tourists safely to earth after golf ball sized hailstones shattered the windscreen of his ‘severely damaged’ jet.
Captain Alexander Akopov, who works for the Turkish company, AtlasGlobal, has been awarded the Ukrainian ‘Order For Courage’ after landing the hail-damaged passenger plane at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport during a fierce storm in Turkey on Thursday.
He saved the lives of 121 passengers and 6 crew members by landing the Airbus A320 after unforgiving winds, rain and hail pummelled the jet’s nose and windscreen.
A video of the speedy landing shows the red and white jet bouncing down the runway as the pilot rushes to get his passengers safely on the ground.
Passengers can be heard crying and praying as the damaged plane veered towards the ground.
Someone behind the camera on the ground can be heard saying: ‘He won’t do it, he won’t do it.’
At least ten people were injured – two of them seriously – when a violent thunderstorm bombarded the city with massive hailstones and submerging much of the city in knee-deep water.
The storm, which lasted only 20 minutes, paralysed traffic and caused flash floods which submerged cars and buses.
Officials said more than 7,000 emergency workers were deployed to help in the aftermath of the storm which uprooted 230 trees, destroyed 90 roofs and sparked fires across Istanbul.
Capt Akopov said he and other crew were celebrating as if it was a ‘second birthday’ after his life-saving heroics in coping with damage caused by hailstones the size of hen’s eggs, which left a gash in the plane and disabled his auto-pilot.
He said: ‘I have been flying for 30 years. Well, did you see the plane landing? Was it okay? The passengers are alive. It is normal. This is our professional reliability.
‘Our locator did not show this weather disaster, this is why it happened. It was hard, but the main thing is that people are alive.’
The catastrophe hit ten minutes after take-off on a Turkish airline AtlasGlobal flight to Erkan in northern Cyprus.
After the plane had climbed to 1,300 meters, the hailstones cracked the cockpit windows, preventing the pilot from seeing his approach to land.
The captain was given permission to try to land at Ataturk airport – even though it had been closed for other flights due to the atrocious weather.
A full-scale emergency response was on standby, with fire appliances and ambulances waiting for the plane.
The video shows a woman with red nails gripping a seat because of the plane’s extreme shaking during the landing.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko called the captain to congratulate him and awarded him with the Ukrainian Order of Courage.
Aviation experts also praised the two Turkish cabin crew members for their bravery.
Mass applause broke out at the airport when Captain Akopov landed the plane.
The pilots of other planes greeted the plane by flashing lights and came aboard to shake the pilots’ hands.
Terrifying images from Thursday’s storm also showed a fire raging at a plastic store, in the Kagithane district, following a powerful lightning strike.
The storm came just nine days after Istanbul was pounded by heavy rains and winds of up to 50mph, flooding streets and metro stations and disrupting tram lines, but without causing casualties.
Footage from broadcaster Haberturk showed a city bus half submerged near a bridge in the city’s Unkapani district.
Dramatic footage on Turkish TV showed waves of hail and rain cascading down the stairs of the Taksim metro station.
Two people were injured when the wall of an old cemetery collapsed near a busy street, Sabah said.