Putin honours 'hero' pilots for Russian corn field landing

Moscow (AFP) –


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday bestowed the country's top state honour on two pilots who safely landed a plane carrying more than 230 people in a corn field after a bird strike.

At a ceremony in the Kremlin, Putin handed pilot Damir Yusupov and co-pilot Georgy Murzin the Hero of Russia awards, praising the crew's courage and professionalism.

"They were able to land the plane literally in an empty field and saved dozens of lives," Putin said.

In August, the Ural Airlines Airbus A321 flying to Crimea hit a flock of seagulls shortly after take-off from Moscow's Zhukovsky airport.

Birds were sucked into the engines and the crew decided to immediately land, bringing the plane down in the corn field about a kilometre from the runway, with the engines off and the landing gear retracted.

The aircraft, carrying 226 passengers and seven crew, was evacuated using inflatable ramps.

Russian media called the landing a "miracle" and drew comparisons with US pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's 2009 landing of a US Airways airliner in the Hudson River after a bird strike.