pilots operating a plane as seen from the cockpit

6 Times Airline Pilots and Crews Went Above and Beyond to Save Lives

There’s a lot more to pilots and crews than what plane passengers see. But many people don’t get to view the extent of the training and hard work these people put into their jobs. Of course, after a smooth flight, it’s easy to assume that their positions aren’t that difficult. However, plane crew members are, in fact, highly trained for numerous emergency situations. And when those situations arise, it’s incredible how calm and courageous they could become. 

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There are so many stories of heroic pilots and crews whose efforts saved many lives. Here are only some of them, starting with Captain Damir Yusupov and how he made an emergency landing that saved everyone on board.

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6 Instances of Airline Pilots and Crews Being Heroes

1. The Russian A321 in 2019

Captain Damir Yusupov  and a crashed flight A321
Image Credit: Siberian Times | Twitter

Two hundred and six passengers boarded a flight from Moscow to Simferopol, many on holidays. However, they all narrowly escaped a complete disaster. As the plane flew higher, one of the engines failed due to a bird strike. Captain Damir Yusupov made the decision to try and land immediately in a cornfield. He and his co-pilot Georgi Murzin achieved this, saving everyone on board. Fortunately, the field cushioned the landing and recent rainfalls prevented the plants from catching fire. Seventy of the passengers required medical attention but only one woman needed to stay at a hospital.

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One of the saved passengers was 11-year-old Vitya Babin. He explained, “One of the stewardesses said there was smoke coming from the plane and we immediately panicked. We ran after one of the men. He said follow me.”

Yuri Sytnik, one of Russia’s top pilots, commented on the incident. “The crew did everything by the book: shut down the engines… brought the plane down really smoothly, touched down first with the tail section, as required, killed the speed – that’s a very tricky moment: you don’t dip the nose, don’t let an engine hit the ground.” [1]

“I really don’t feel like a hero,” Yusupov said. “I did what I had to do, saved the plane, the passengers, the crew.

Read: A good Samaritan jumped into water and saved a toddler who fell out of a car, authorities say

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2. US Airways flight 1549 in 2009

A photo of the event dumbed the Miracle on the Hudson. A partially submerged Airbus A320 with front emergency slides deployed.
Image via Flickr

This flight has been nicknamed “Miracle on the Hudson” and it’s clear why. A flight from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, collided with a flock of Canada geese. Both of the engines were extremely damaged and refused to restart. Unable to reach any nearby airports, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III attempted the risky and rare water landing into the Hudson River. 

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His efforts saved his four crew members and 150 passengers. Everyone exited the plane through forward slides/rafts and onto inflatable rafts. Ferries and emergency responders rescued them minutes later. While many people had hypothermia, only five people suffered from serious surgery, including a flight attendant who needed surgery on their leg.

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Afterward, Sullenberger became a national hero. The plane was later removed from the river and put on display at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte. [2]

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3. United Airlines Flight 232 in 1989

United Airlines Flight 232
Image via Wikipedia

The crew lost control of the plane after an engine explosion cut the hydraulic lines. The pilot, Captain Al Haynes, managed to crash-land the Sioux City airport in Iowa. This flight ended in tragedy as 112 people died during the crash. However, 184 survived because of the masterful piloting and calm leadership from Haynes and his crew.

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Haynes, after recovering from his injuries from the crash, returned to his position as a pilot. He passed away in 2019 at the age of 87, just one month after the 30th anniversary of the incredible flight. During his life, he gave numerous interviews and speeches about the flight. According to his daughter, Laurie Arguello, “He wanted something positive to come out of the bad things that happened. It was really important to him that people knew about how important teamwork was.” [3]

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A computer-animated recreation of Flight 232

Read: Three boys found man about to jump off bridge, grabbed him and didn’t let go

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4. United Airlines Flight 93 in 2001

United Airlines Flight 93
Image Credit: Wikimedia

While Flight 232 in 1989 resulted in some tragedy, Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, was tragic beyond words. This was a flight from Newark to San Francisco that never got there. Four plane hijackers herded the crew and passengers to the back of the aircraft, all of which were of different ages from different walks of life. While none survived the crash, they saved so many on the ground. They used the onboard phones and their personal phones to call people to warn them. Then they chose to attack the hijackers to retake the plane. 

At this point, Flight 93 was 20 minutes away from Washington but they never made it. They crashed near the village of Lambertville in Pennsylvania. One passenger’s widow said that over the phone her husband had said, “We’re waiting until we’re over a rural area.

The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves.” said D.C. Air National Guard pilot Marc Sasseville, who was expected to intercept the flight and take it down, “They made the decision we didn’t have to make.” These heroes deserve to be remembered. [4]

United 93 flight path
Image via Wikipedia

5. British Airways Flight 5390 in 1990

British Airways Flight 5390
Image via Wikipedia

This was a flight from England to Spain where an improperly placed window panel fell off, blowing the pilot, Timothy Lancaster, halfway out of the plane. The autopilot stopped and the plane began to descend. The steward, Nigel Ogden, managed to hold into the pilot while he began to develop frostbite. Meanwhile, the plane didn’t have enough oxygen to provide for everyone on board. The co-pilot, Alastair Atchison, began to descend to find an altitude with sufficient air pressure. 

At one point, the Ogden thought the pilot was dead, but Atchison told them to keep holding onto him. He feared that the body might hit the wing and damage it. When Atchison managed an emergency landing at Southampton Airport, where all of the passengers disembarked safely. Lancaster survived his injuries, as did Ogden. 

The crew was tremendous,” the spokesman, Anthony Cocklin, said. ”We have nothing but praise for them. It was a tremendous example of alertness and we are very proud of them.[5] 

6. Antonov-28 in 2021

A SILA Airlines Antonov An-28 aircraft
Image Credit: SILA Airlines via ABC.net

A small, short-range plane went missing while flying over Siberia this past July. Fortunately, all 18 of the people on board were found by dispatched helicopters. The pilot, Captain Anatoly Prytkov, suffered from a broken leg upon the rescue. His co-pilot, Farukh Khasanov, explained that they made an emergency landing after the plane’s engines stopped working. It’s a miracle that everyone survived after similar incidents had many casualties. [6]

Keep Reading: Divers find man alive in boat at bottom of the ocean 3 days after it capsized

Sources:

  1. “Russia bird strike: How cool heads glided jet down to safety.” BBC. August 16, 2019
  2. “US Airways flight 1549.” Britannica. Amy Tikkanen. December 6, 2016
  3. “This United Airlines Pilot Saved 184 Passengers’ Lives and Taught an Incredible Lesson in Leadership. Here’s Why His Heroic Legacy Is So Extraordinary.” Inc. Bill Murphy Jr. August 31, 2019
  4. “Preserving the Selfless Heroism of the Passengers of United Flight 93.” The New Yorker. Paige Williams. September 10, 2021
  5. “4 Miles Over Britain Pilot Is Sucked Out; Crew Holds On Tight.” New York Times. Sheila Rule. June 11, 1990 
  6. “Russian plane forced into emergency landing after being reported missing, but all passengers survive.ABC News. July 16, 2021
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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