Moscow: The captain of a Russian passenger jet was hailed as a hero on Thursday. He had landed his plane in a cornfield after several birds were sucked into the plane's two engines, which caught fire.
All the 234 passengers and seven crew members are alive. However, more than 50 people sought medical treatment and six were hospitalized.
The event drew comparisons to the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson," when a captain ditched his plane in New York's Hudson River after a bird strike disabled his engines.
Russian television stations carried footage of passengers standing in the cornfield next to the plane, hugging the pilot and thanking him for saving their lives.
A passenger said the plane shook violently just seconds after take-off. ‘‘Then the lights started flashing and there was a burning smell," he said. "The plane landed and we all ran out."
Vitya Babin, 11, who was on the plane with his mother and sister, said passengers had not been warned there was going to be an emergency landing. There was silence in the cabin and then screams began when it touched down, footage showed. "We were not warned," said Babin.
A local resident quoted by the Govorit Moskva radio station said the gulls that struck the plane had probably come from an illegal rubbish dump near Zhukovsky airport.
Moscow region officials, however, rejected that assertion and said the nearest rubbish dump to the airport was 14 km away, TASS reported.
Safety concerns have plagued Russia's airline industry since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, though standards are widely recognized to have sharply risen on international routes in particular in recent years.