Reader's Digest International - - My Life -

The Air­bus A320 with 127 pas­sen­gers on board was just 10 min­utes into its flight from Is­tan­bul to Cyprus when it en­coun­tered a vi­o­lent freak storm. Hail­stones the size of golf balls lashed the plane, de­stroy­ing its nose, smash­ing its wind­shield and dis­abling its au­topi­lot.

De­spite los­ing vi­sion from the cock­pit, Ukrainian cap­tain Alexan­der Akopov didn’t panic. The vet­eran pi­lot asked per­mis­sion from Is­tan­bul’s Ataturk air­port to re­turn and at­tempt a ‘blind’ land­ing.

As the plane ap­proached the run­way, pas­sen­gers screamed in fear for their lives. But Cap­tain Akopov used his ex­pe­ri­ence, re­ly­ing on in­stru­ment read­ings and guid­ance from the con­trol tower, and brought the plane home safely—to ap­plause from wait­ing emer­gency ser­vices.

“The pas­sen­gers are alive. It is nor­mal. This is our pro­fes­sional re­li­a­bil­ity,” the mod­est hero said af­ter­wards. He has since been awarded Ukraine’s Or­der for Courage.

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