A brave pilot landed a tourist jet “blind” after giant hailstones smashed the cockpit’s windscreen and almost tore off its nosecone. These incredible pictures show the plane after the pilot’s heroic emergency landing at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport with 127 passengers on board.
On July 27, a Turkish AtlasGlobal flight on route from Istanbul to Ercan, northern Cyprus was hit by an intense hailstorm which caused severe damage to the cockpit and completely smashed the front windows, reducing visibility to zero.
The plane's pilot, Ukrainian national Alexander Akopov, made the decision to turn the plane around and return to Istanbul for a blind landing. Video of the veteran pilot's feat soon surfaced and went viral, showing the plane's daring descent to the airport, where it made a safe, smooth landing, saving the lives of all 121 passengers and six crew members onboard.
Akopov used a “blind” landing technique to land the plane, using instruments to guide him as the plane’s autopilot was also damaged by hail. The hail also left dents on the nose of the aircraft. The freak hailstorm began about 10 minutes after take-off as the plane was flying from Istanbul to Ercan, Cyprus.
“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,” Akopov told local media, as reported by the Independent.
“I have been flying for 30 years. Well, did you see the plane landing? Was it okay? The passengers are alive. It is normal. This is our professional reliability,” he said.
Oleg Lungul, an engineer at Ataturk Airport, which was forced to close due to the freak storm, said on Facebook that “there was a hurricane and...hail the size of a chicken egg”, alongside photos of the A320’s damaged nose.