Hero Pilot Lands Plane ‘Blind’ After Freak Hailstorm Wrecked the Cockpit

Among the worst things that could happen to you on a plane -- besides being dragged off for no good reason, stung by a scorpion, or having the shit kicked out of you by a stranger -- would be anything that interferes with the pilot's ability to land or see. So, imagine how horrifying it would've been to be on a recent flight that encountered an unexpected hailstorm so powerful, that it shattered the cockpit windshield and knocked out the autopilot system, leaving the pilot essentially "blind" in the sky. Fortunately, the pro behind the controls in this case managed to land the jet -- with all 127 people on board -- safely, using some next-level skills.

Did you hear that? Sounds like Sully Sullenberger just sprained his neck trying to watch his back.

The terrifying episode went down last week in Turkey, when the AtlasGlobal airlines flight en route from Istanbul to Ercan, Cyprus, flew through a freak hailstorm that weather radar somehow didn't pick up, just 10 minutes into the flight. The hailstones were so big that they royally messed up the front of the aircraft -- dramatically denting the nose, shattering the cockpit windshields, and rendering the plane's autopilot useless. Unsurprisingly, the pilot immediately decided to attempt an emergency landing back in Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. 

Of course, without autopilot or a clean line of sight out the window, you can imagine landing without crashing would be, uh, difficult. However, the pilot -- Captain Alexander Akopov -- successfully maneuvered the landing blind using some as-yet-unspecified special techniques. Passengers, who were understandably upset and some of whom were crying during the descent from just 4,000 feet -- applauded and cheered when the aircraft safely slowed after the bumpy landing. Bystanders aware of the situation also caught the landing on video. 

The feat was so impressive, that Captain Akopov, a Ukranian native, received a phone call from the country's president, and awarded him the Ukrainian Order of Courage.

Tip of the cap to you, Captain Akopov, and who knows -- maybe Tom Hanks will play you in a movie, too!

h/tTravel & Leisure

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.