Damir Yusupov, the pilot who landed a Ural Airlines passenger plane in a Russian cornfield, says he wasn't afraid after both of the jetliner's engines were knocked out by birds. He didn't have time to be.
A day after being hailed as a hero for his quick thinking in the cockpit as the plane lost speed, Yusupov told reporters on August 16 that his only chance was to down the Airbus 321 with 233 people on board in the farmer's field near Zhukovsky airport on the outskirts of Moscow.
"I wasn't afraid," Yusupov, speaking in the city of Yekaterinburg, said. "I did what I had to do...I saved the plane, the passengers, the crew. I think that was the only decision. I don't think I'm a hero," he added modestly.
Emergency officials said 74 people sought medical assistance after the landing, while the Health Ministry said 23 were taken to hospital for injuries suffered in the crash. All but one were released after being treated.
Yusupov and the six other crew members were lauded immediately for their actions in the emergency, which was compared to the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson," when Captain Chesley Sullenberger safely brought a U.S. Airways plane down in New York's Hudson River after a bird strike disabled its engines.
President Vladimir Putin on August 16 conferred the title Hero of Russia upon Yusupov and co-pilot Georgy Murzin, while other crew members were awarded the Order of Courage for their work in keeping the passengers safe while evacuating the plane within minutes of its landing.
The plane took off from the airport headed for Simferopol, the capital of Ukraine's Russia-annexed Crimea region.
The crew soon after tried to bring the plane back after hitting a flock of sea gulls, causing the left engine to fail, while the right engine could no longer provide enough thrust to keep the plane in the air after hitting another flock of birds.
Passengers placed videos they shot on their mobile phones to social networks showing the plane intact after skidding through the cornfield for several hundred meters.
Ural Airlines noted Yusupov was highly experienced with over 3,000 hours of flying. He has been flying with the company since 2013 and became a captain last year.
But it almost didn't happen.
Yusupov's father was a helicopter pilot but he initially took his own path, becoming a lawyer. It wasn't until he joined a flight school at the age of 32 that Yusupov began to follow in his dad's footsteps.
After the harrowing experience, Yusupov said he won't be in the cockpit in the near future.
"I'm on vacation now and I'll rest while the investigation into the crash is carried out," he said.