Astounding video footage has been released showing a pilot landing a plane after golf ball sized hail shattered the aircraft’s windscreen and “severely damaged” the jet. Captain Alexander Akopov was flying “blind” during the incident but managed to safely land the plane and bring all 121 passengers and six crew members to the ground.
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As reported by the Daily Mail, Akopov is being hailed as a hero for bringing the aircraft in safely. Akopov works for AtlasGlobal, a Turkish company, and landed the jet at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul as a serious storm raged in the area.
His actions saved the lives of the 127 individuals on board.
During the incident, passengers can be heard praying and crying as the seriously damaged aircraft was being steered towards the ground.
Footage of the landing shows the aircraft bouncing on the runway as the pilot was forced to make a speedy landing to get everyone back to earth safely.
Images from inside the cockpit show the significance of the damage to the windscreen, with cracks rendering visibility down to zero. The autopilot feature was also disabled due to the damage to the aircraft.
The violent storm hit the city of Istanbul quickly. Though it only lasted 20 minutes, flash floods happened throughout the area, and traffic was brought to a standstill. At least 16 other aircraft were rerouted away from Ataturk Airport due to the hazardous conditions.
Akopov was unaware of the storm when he approached the airport. He said, “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 storm hit the area only 10 minutes after the flight took off. The aircraft had reached a height of 1,300 meters, or approximately 4,265 feet, when the hailstones cracked the windscreen. The flight was originally destined for Erkan in northern Cyprus, though it had to return to Istanbul after the aircraft sustained the damage. Akopov was given permission to land at Ataturk Airport based on the emergency situation that was unfolding.
Akopov has been awarded the Ukrainian “Order for Courage” for skillfully flying the aircraft through the rain and hail, as well as high winds. The storm damaged the nose of the jet as well as the windscreen.
Speaking about the incident, Akopov said he and the crew celebrated the landing as though it was a “second birthday.”