The Ural Airlines A321 flying to Crimea hit a flock of seagulls shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky airport on Thursday morning, the Rosaviatsia air transport agency said in a statement.
Birds were sucked into the engines and the crew decided to immediately land, bringing the plane down in the corn field about one kilometer from the runway, with the engines off and the landing gear retracted.
The aircraft, carrying 226 passengers and seven crew, was evacuated using inflatable ramps.
The health ministry said that 23 people were sent to hospital but there were no serious injuries. Only one patient with moderate injuries required further hospitalization, it said. “It all happened in a few seconds… We took off and came back down,” passenger Irina Usacheva told state television channel Rossiya 24.
Passenger Svetlana Babina said the bird strike could be heard from inside the plane and that the engines started making “strange noises.”
“We have to pay tribute to the pilot, in the circumstances he landed as softly as possible,” she told the RIA Novosti news agency.