A pilot is being heralded as a hero after landing a badly-damaged Airbus A320 in Istanbul.
Imagine this. A plane takes off in Istanbul just as a hailstorm begins. The aircraft climbs to about 4,000 feet and then is suddenly pummeled relentlessly by hail the size of golf balls. The windshield is cracked and the nose of the aircraft severely damaged.
The AtlasGlobal flight was bound from Istanbul to Erkan, in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. Thankfully for the 127 passengers onboard, Captain Alexander Akopov remained calm.
Akopov radioed that he would be returning to Istanbul even though he was met by scoffs from many on the ground that he would be able to land. Landing “blind” (called Instrument Flight Rules or IFR in the USA) is certainly not out of the ordinary, but landing with unknown damage to the aircraft is something quite different.
But Akopov landed smoothly in IST and was greeted by applause from passengers onboard. Emergency personnel standing by on the ground found no need to turn on their lights and sirens.
Here’s a video of the plane landing and two startling pictures:
Akopov, who is Ukrainian, was awarded Ukraine’s Order for Courage, recognizing “individual courage and heroism while rescuing people or valued materials while endangering own life.”
Ironically, the storm lasted for only 20 minutes. But in that time it did immense damage, and not just to the AtlasGlobal A320. Busses and cars were submerged in water, downed electrical lines caused fires, and hundreds of trees were uprooted.
My takeaway: it’s almost always safer to fly.