Cape Town – Captain Alexander Akopov is a hero after successfully conducting an emergency landing of a severely hail-damaged Atlas Jet plane at the Istanbul Atatürk International Airport - without autopilot.
The hailstorm, which took place on on Thursday 27 July, caused extreme damage to the plane’s exterior by shattering the windscreen and causing zero visibility. Akopov was then forced to land the plane 'blind' in Istanbul, according to Sky News.
His skill and bravery saved 121 passengers and 6 crew who “broke out into applause as the plane came to a halt”.
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“The plane took off from Ercan International Airport in northern Cyprus, but Akopov came into difficulty shortly afterwards when a storm broke out and large hailstones destroyed the cockpit's windscreen,” says Sky News.
Akopov was given permission to fly the jet into Istanbul's airport, where he successfully landed the damaged aircraft despite not being able to see anything.
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The plane’s nose was also extensively damaged after taking a beating from massive hailstones, which also “disabled the aircraft's autopilot”.
"Did you see the plane landing? Was it okay? The passengers are alive. It is normal. This is our professional reliability,” says Akopov to media.
"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," he adds.
Akopov, a Ukrainian pilot who has been flying for 30 years, was given the Ukrainian Order for Courage in his home country.
Heavy rain and storms in Istanbul caused travel disruptions after train stations and roads were flooded, and Ataturk Airport was also closed to other flights.
Istanbul media, Daily Sabah, shared a video of the plane successfully landing. Check it out:
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