Capt. Alexander Akopov, a Ukrainian pilot, was awarded a national medal of courage by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, for showing exceptional skill at landing a plane last week, whose windscreen was smashed by hailstorm, it was reported Monday.
The Airbus A320 operated by AtlasGlobal took off from Istanbul, Turkey and was headed to Erkan, Cyprus on Thursday when it was met with a shower of golf ball-sized hailstones just 10 minutes after being in the air. At the height of 4000 feet, the hailstones bashed in the nose of the airplane and left the windscreen covered in minute cracks that made it impossible for the pilot to see anything outside the window, the Telegraph reported.
Instead of losing his cool, Akopov calmly evaluated his options and contacted the Ataturk Airport, which was the nearest and requested clearance for an emergency landing. Even though staff at the airport showed concerned over whether Akopov will be able to land the plane safely, the Ukrainian pilot proceeded with his plan.
Emergency services were kept on standby at the airport, even though they were not required in the end. In a video recorded by Facebook user Oleg Lungul, the Airbus A320 is seen safely landing on a rain-washed runway.
In another video, recorded by one of the passengers present on the plane at the time, many are shown screaming and crying for their lives.
After Akopov safely brought 121 passengers and six crew members back to safety, applause broke out among the passengers, according to the Independent report. Pilots of flights present at the airport at the time flashed their lights and also went up to meet the brave pilot, once the Airbus A320 was safely back on the ground.
“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,” Akopov told reporters after landing, according to the Independent. “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.”
It is not immediately clear whether an investigation will be launched to find out why the locator on Airbus A320 malfunction, leaving the pilot with no forewarning of the bad weather he was flying into. Although the hailstorm only lasted for about 20…