Capt. Alexander Akopov is being hailed as a hero.
The pilot safely landing a passenger aircraft that was severely damaged in a hailstorm over Istanbul, Turkey, last week.
According to The Telegraph, Akopov had just taken off for Erkan, Cyprus, with 127 passengers on-board when “hailstones the size of golf balls” began battering the AtlasGlobal-operated Airbus A320, damaging the nose and shattering the windshield.
Akopov had no choice but to turn the plane around and attempt a “blind” landing at the Ataturk Airport, using only the plane’s instruments to guide him.
Footage taken from near the runway shows the plane touching down safely, although voices could be heard worrying that Akopov “won’t be able to land” under the circumstances.
Oleg Lungul, an engineer who works at the airport, later said on Facebook that the airport’s employees began applauding Akopov upon landing. Nearby pilots then boarded the plane to shake hands with the crew, Lulgul said.
Lungul also included photos of the plane’s nose and windshield, which appeared to have suffered extensive damage from the “chicken egg”-sized hail.
Speaking to reporters after the landing, Akopov gave some insight into how he was able to land the aircraft safely.
"I have been flying for 30 years,” he said. “Well, did you see the plane landing? Was it OK? The passengers are alive. It is normal," he said, according to The Mirror.
"This is our professional reliability. Our locator did not show this weather disaster, this is why it happened.”
Capt. Akapov also added that it was difficult landing the plane, but stressed, “the main thing is that people are alive.”
Akopov, who is Ukranian, has since been awarded the Ukraine Order of Courage medal for his actions.