A Ural Airlines Airbus 321-100 with 226 passengers and 7 crew onboard crashlanded in a cornfield shortly after takeoff from Moscow on August 15, 2019. There were no reports of serious injuries or death. However, the airplane suffered total damage.
Ural Airlines flight U6178 crashlanding chain of events
Ural Airlines flight U6178, registration VQ-BOZ, was taking off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport for Simferopol in Ukraine. A flock of seagulls flew into both engines, causing a forced landing.
The circumstances around the accident were similar to that of the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing by USAir in New York on January 15, 2009.
The birdstrike occurred at 750 feet after taking off from Zkukovsky’s runway 12 at about 06:15 a.m. local time. The CFM56 engines ingested a flock of birds.
The left engine immediately seized, while the right engine failed to provide sufficient thrust to maintain flight.
The right engine was making noise as if attempting to spool up but repeatedly failing to produce the necessary thrust. You can hear the surging engine noise come on as the bird strike hits in the video below.
The pilots stopped the climb at 750 feet to land the airplane in the cornfield past the runway, gear up.
An emergency evacuation took place using the slides. 10 injuries were reported. Substantial airplane damage resulted from the forced landing.
The Ural Airlines pilots’ account of the events
The pilots told Russian media the bird strike hit the left engine first, causing it to spool down and seize immediately. Shortly after that, the right engine took a second bird strike. At that time there was insufficient engine thrust left to remain airborne. The captain then took control of the airplane and landed the Airbus in the open field ahead.
Ural Airlines pilots displayed the best of professionalism
By initial reports, Captain Damir Yusupov and First Officer (co-pilot) Gregory Murzin executed the emergency procedures perfectly. Captain Yusupov took the controls when it became evident that an immediate landing was imminent. Pilot decision making and crew resource management (CRM) appear to have functioned perfectly and “by the book”.
Drone video of the Ural Airlines Moscow crash site after the accident
Bird strikes on airplanes
The jet engines on airliners are all designed to withstand a birdstrike, up to a certain severity. Many factors come to play enabling an engine to continue operating after a birdstrike, from engine design, construction, and engine computer systems.
FADEC engine protection
In the case of Ural Airlines, their A321 was using CFM56 engines equipped with a FADEC computer system (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) system. The FADEC controls all aspects of the airplane’s engine performance. The FADEC is found on jet engines and piston engines alike.
As a matter of fact, this system is so genius designed with automatic safety systems that the FADEC will shut the engine down for odd indications. High engine temperature, low oil pressure, or anything that protects the engine will signal the FADEC. After initial sensing of the non-normal indication, the FADEC will try to restart the engine three times without human intervention!
Had the birdstrike damage from this forced landing not been as serious as it was the engines could have kept producing enough thrust for a safe return landing.
But, based on the initial indications of what happened, it looks like the left engine, seizing immediately, took a more serious birdstrike than the right engine.
The right engine, as noticed in the videos, sounds like it was trying to spool itself up to be able to continue operating. Seemingly, the remaining thrust being produced after the birdstrike was not sufficient for continued flight.
Russian government agencies statements to the Ural Airlines Moscow crashlanding
Statement by Rosaviatsia, the Russian “FAA”
Rosaviatsia confirmed the aircraft colliding with a flock of seagulls right after the airplane took off. The seagulls’ entry into the engines caused significant interruptions of the performance of the engines.
The forced landing took place in a cornfield between the middle and outer marker of the ILS landing system for the opposite runway. The landing was performed with the gear up. Both engines were shut down by the pilots just prior to touch down. The passengers and crew all evacuated via slides. Some passengers were taken to a medical facility in Zhukovsky. The remaining passengers were taken back to Zhukovsky Airport.
Statement of the Russian Ministry of Transport
A report by the Ministry of Transport was similar to Rosaviatsia’s:
The airplane encountered a bird strike into both engines while flying through a flock of seagulls. The aircraft made the landing with the gear retracted. The pilots shut down both engines just before touchdown.
Russia’s Emergency Ministry
Yet another Russian agency, the Emergency Ministry, had this to say:
Russia’s Emergency Ministry confirmed 226 passengers (6 children) and 7 airline crew members were on board. Passengers and crew were evacuated successfully. 10 of the passengers, including 3 children, required medical attention.
The aircraft was located outside the airport. The right engine was smoking but there was no fire present. No fuel leakage occurred. No people remained in the cabin. To cool the engines emergency crews applied foam. Eight buses transported the passengers back to Zhukovsky Airport.
Russian MAK investigation
The Russian MAK, or IAC (Interstate Aviation Committee) has opened an investigation into the accident. MAK would be the Russian agency closest resembling the U.S. NTSB. (National Transportation Safety Board).
Russian Accident criminal investigation
Furthermore, as frequently initiated in many foreign countries after an airplane accident or incident, a criminal investigation has been opened into the accident. Russian States Prosecution is in charge of this.
Ural Airlines pilots awarded with ‘Hero of Russia’ titles by President Putin
Unlike the lengthy investigations typical of Western countries’ airplane accidents before crews or officials will comment on anything, Russia has been very eager to react to the accident with praise for how it was handled.
Featured image credit: Twitter