Passengers onboard a Russian airlines flight that survived a “miracle” emergency landing in a cornfield near Moscow have told of their horror inside the shaking plane.
Russians say it was a miracle that no one was killed when the Ural Airlines Airbus 321 came down in a field with its landing gear up after a passing flock of birds disrupted the plane’s engines shortly after take-off.
The Kremlin has praised two Russian pilots as heroes and says they will be handed state awards after they safely landed the airliner carrying 233 people.
Passenger Fyodor Galin told Russian news site Mash Telegram that the plane began to shake about five seconds after take-off.
“Then the lights started flashing and there was a burning smell,” Mr Galin said.
“The plane landed and we all ran out.”
Vitya Babin, 11, who was on the plane with his mother and sister, said passengers had not been warned there was going to be an emergency landing.
Footage taken inside the plane shows there was silence in the cabin, followed by screams when it touched down.
One of the engines caught fire after the birds were sucked into them but the fire didn’t spread into the passenger cabin, an emergency services source told Russian news site TASS.
Up to 55 people, including 17 children, were treated for injuries, six of whom have been hospitalised, Russian news agencies quoted the emergencies ministry as saying.
State television said the incident was being dubbed the “miracle over Ramensk”, the name of the district near Moscow where the plane came down around one kilometre from Zhukovsky International Airport.
The Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid praised pilot Damir Yusupov as a “hero,” saying he had saved 233 lives, “having masterfully landed a plane without its landing gear with a failing engine right in a corn field.”
Some drew comparisons with US Airways Flight 1549 which performed a landing on the Hudson River in New York in 2009 after striking a flock of geese.
“We congratulate the hero pilots who saved people’s lives,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that the Kremlin would see that the men were quickly given state honours. “There’s no doubt about this. They will be given awards.”
The plane’s engines were turned off when it executed the emergency landing and it also had its landing gear up, according to Elena Mikheyeva, a spokeswoman for Russia’s civil aviation authority.
Footage shot by passengers showed the flight lasted less than two minutes and that the engines had experienced difficulties almost immediately after take-off.
Vitya Babin, 11, who was on the plane with his mother and sister, said passengers had not been warned there was going to be an emergency landing. There was silence in the cabin and then screams began when it touched down, footage showed.
“We were not warned,” said Babin.
Passengers were evacuated via escape slides and were told to run away from the plane.
The plane was due to fly to Simferopol in Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.
Safety concerns have plagued Russia’s airline industry since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, though standards are widely recognised to have sharply risen on international routes in particular in recent years.