The hero pilots fought to keep an “out of control” plane from crashing for five hours, saving the plane’s 200 passengers.
The terrifying incident occurred in Russia when the Airbus A321 – with 201 on board including 25 children – suddenly plunged shortly after takeoff.
The pilots were forced to fly the plane across Siberia because they were only able to make an emergency landing after a five-and-a-half-hour nightmare.
The captain issued a Mayday appeal shortly after take-off and twice failed with emergency landings at the Magadan departure airport.
The aircraft swayed and taxied with its fuselage severely covered in ice and the lights reportedly flashing.
The autopilot stopped and there was a failure of the on-board electronics.
According to reports, the captain was unable to dump fuel to attempt a safe emergency landing.
Instead, it flew over mountain ranges, to the next nearest airport – Yakutsk, the coldest city in the world.
Meanwhile, panicked passengers “screamed and prayed,” with a woman recounting how she hugged her husband as they said goodbye to him, convinced they were going to die.
Passenger Stanislav Kuimov said: âFive minutes after takeoff, the plane started to lose altitude sharply.
âWe were thrown from top to bottom.
âFirst sunk in the seats, then there was almost zero gravity.
“The clicking of the wings, the creaking of the fuselage, the sound of the wind, the roar of the engines, the bags falling from the racks – horror.”
‘CALL AND PRAY’
Another passenger said: âA loud clicking sound started, the plane rolled from side to side.
âThen the nose came down sharply, and we dived at high speed.
âThe people cried out and started to pray, no one understood anything.
“My husband and I hugged each other and said goodbye.”
After nearly an hour, the aircraft stabilized, but it took three hours for the pilots to reach 32,000 feet cruising altitude.
The crew refused a landing in icy Yakutsk, where the temperature was -30C.
They flew to Irkutsk, where it was -1C, and made an emergency landing to the applause of the passengers.
The low-level flight during the first three hours of the flight meant that the plane did not have enough fuel to reach its final destination, Novosibirsk.
Airline S7 – a major Russian carrier that is part of the same “Oneworld” alliance as British Airways – said that on take off, the aircraft “entered an area of ââsevere icing, resulting in the disconnection of the Automatic pilot “.
The terrified passengers were offered food and drinks, as well as connecting flights on other planes.
The police have impounded the Airbus and officers are carrying out checks when it is suspected that the de-icing spray used at Magadan was defective.
The captain issued a Mayday appeal, Readovka reported, while a source said: âThe crew announced loss of control and the decision to return to the departure airport, Magadan.
“But they couldn’t get off and land.”
Flight radar video shows the plane circling around Magadan as it sought to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff – before gaining altitude and continuing to fly.
There are claims that a counterfeit de-icing spray was used on the plane, causing it to freeze soon after take-off, Readovka reported.
The mayor of Magadan, Yury Grishan, praised the “great professionalism, courage and composure” of the crew during the emergency.
âYour swift actions prevented the tragedy and saved the lives of over 200 passengers,â he said.
Russian Transportation Commission and Baikal-Angarsk Transportation Prosecutor’s Office are investigating the horror theft.