ISTANBUL: A Ukranian pilot earned national recognition after he landed a plane safely at Istanbul's Ataturk airport despite being blinded after a hailstorm had completely shattered the cockpit windscreen and damaged the body.
Captain Alexander Akopov was forced to land the Airbus A320 after a heavy storm over Turkey brought hailstones "the size of eggs" smashing against the plane, according to the Independent.
There were 121 passengers and six crew members on board the Turkish AtlasGlobal flight which was heading from Istanbul to Cyprus on Thursday (Jul 27).
The incident occurred just moments after take-off at an altitude of 1,300m when the plane's nose and windscreen were hit by hailstones, according to the Telegraph.
The plane's autopilot mode was disabled, forcing the captain to take control under the harsh conditions, the report added.
He then turned the plane back to make a dramatic landing which was captured on video, as airport staff looked on with emergency services ready to move in.
“I have been flying for 30 years. Well, did you see the plane landing? Was it okay? The passengers are alive. It is normal. This is our professional reliability," he said in an interview with local media.
The pilot was awarded a medal of honour by President Petro Poroshenko.
A Ukranian government statement said: "Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has awarded Ukrainian pilot Oleksandr Akopov the Order For Courage.
"Akopov, who is working in the AtlasGlobal Turkish company, saved the lives of 121 passengers and 6 crew members by flawlessly landing damaged passenger plane at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport in extremely difficult weather conditions on Jul 27."