Ukranian captain Alexander Akopov has been awarded a national medal of courage for safely landing a packed passenger jet “blind” after its windshield was smashed by giant hailstones in a violent storm over Turkey. The Airbus A320, operated by Atlasglobal, was en route from Istanbul to Erkan, Cyprus, with 127 tourists on board when it flew through the severe storms that battered Istanbul last week.
Soon after take-off, at 1,300 metres above the ground, the aircraft’s nose was pummelled by hailstones the size of golf balls, shattering the windscreen and leaving the pilots unable to see. The pilot decided to turn the plane around and attempt to return to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.
In a video taken of the landing, employees at the airport are heard saying: “It won’t be able to land, it won’t land.” The aircraft did land safely, however, and was greeted by applause from waiting emergency services.