A Ukrainian pilot has been hailed a hero after successfully landing a plane severely damaged by giant hail stones.
Last Thursday, Captain Alexander Akopov, who flies for Atlasglobal, was forced to carry out a heart-stopping emergency landing in Istanbul after flying through an unexpected hail storm. Not long after its early evening take-off from Atatürk Airport en route to Ercan, North Cyprus and having reached an altitude of 4,000 feet, hail stones the size of “hen’s eggs” pelted the Airbus A320, denting its nose and cockpit, and shattering the windscreen, leaving the pilot and his crew unable to see outside the aircraft.
Forced to fly blind, Captain Akopov decided it was best to return to Atatürk Airport, which was closed at the time due to the freak storm also battering the city. The Atlasglobal flight was given permission to make an emergency landing with ambulances and fire crews on standby. Miraculously, the experienced pilot landed the plane carrying 127 passengers without any incident, prompting huge celebrations on board the aircraft and in the terminal building where relatives and friends were waiting.
After landing the captain said: “I have been flying for 30 years. Well, did you see the plane landing? Was it OK? The passengers are alive. It is normal. This is our professional reliability.”
The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was among those to call and congratulate Captain Akopov for his bravery in landing the aircraft in such adverse weather conditions. On returning to his home country, the pilot was awarded the Ukrainian Order For Courage.