“Let them write!”: the pilot who landed the plane on a wheat field insisted that he was right

“Let them write!”: the pilot who landed the plane on a wheat field insisted that he was right

“I’m 32 years old now, and on September 28 I’ll be 33,” says Sergei Belov. - I was born in Tbilisi. My dad, Vladimir Latsabidze, was a pilot in Georgia and personally carried then President Shevardnadze. Then my father was the commander of the plane. And my grandfather is also a pilot - he served as a military navigator.

When I was two years old, we moved to Sochi, where my dad worked as a Tu-154 and Tu-130 instructor at Black Sea Airlines. Well, when the company broke up, he went to Ural Airlines as a Tu-154 commander-instructor and worked there for five years. Then these planes began to be slowly changed to Airbus, and my father left for another airline. And then an accident happened...

- Which?

- During the flight at an altitude of 9000 km, he felt ill, his blood pressure rose, a blood clot... But he landed the plane, taxied to the parking lot at Vnukovo and died... Alas, then they officially announced that he got off the plane and died in the car in Moscow - apparently so that the airline does not bear any responsibility. We didn’t begin to understand anything then. My father was only 54 years old. And a few years later, when I had already graduated from the flight institute, the second pilot of that plane and the flight engineer came to me and told me the whole truth. Before this, they were not allowed to speak, they were threatened with dismissal...

A year before my birth, my father, being the commander of a Tu-154 aircraft, made an emergency landing and saved 150 people.

This happened during takeoff from Odessa. The airliner's flaps retracted asynchronously, it began to fall, and an emergency landing was required. The instruments showed that everything was normal, but in fact one flap was torn off and the plane began to roll. But my father landed in Odessa with excess landing weight. Then he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. At that time, they did not give a Hero of Russia because they decided that the pilots were saving themselves, not passengers. This is how it happens...

- Of course, you chose your profession from childhood...

- Yes, I always knew that I would be a pilot. I first graduated from secondary school No. 25 in Adler, where my family and I lived, then entered St. Petersburg State University of Civil Aviation (St. Petersburg University of Civil Aviation). After graduation, it was difficult to find employment, but in 2013 I got a job at Ural Airlines. My mother and I live in Sochi, she is 73 years old. When I'm not there, a nurse takes care of her.

- How did you start? Remember the first flight? What is the most difficult thing for you in the profession?

- There are always difficulties, because this profession requires a lot of knowledge, knowledge of documents - from aircraft operation to technology, knowledge of foreign languages. My father told and taught me a lot in his time, so I absorbed all the difficulties of this profession from early childhood.

I had my first flight as a commander in 2018, I was 26 years old then. I remember flying from Moscow to Kaliningrad. First impressions? The responsibility is, of course, great. But we are taught this, we are prepared by simulators and exams.

There were then 220 passengers on board. The flight went well. Now it turns out that I have been working here for ten years, my total flight time is 8,600 hours, and as a commander, about 4,500 hours. I love airplanes! The feeling itself when you control such a liner is indescribable.

- How does your family feel about your work?

- I don’t have a wife yet. All the time at work is the main thing in my life. While there is not even a girl, he has not met his fate. There’s no time...

- You have already talked more than once about an emergency landing in a wheat field. And yet, please remember that day again.

- Everything was normal for us. I took the plane as usual. But the weather conditions at the Omsk airport were unfavorable. That is, there were gusty winds, wind shear, the dispatcher told us. We began to approach the runway, lowered the landing gear, the controller cleared the landing, and then problems began with the hydraulic system. Then we went to the waiting area.

Everything happened as expected, the co-pilot and I made the decision reasonably and competently. There was still time, and we decided to fly to Novosibirsk. But the landing gear did not retract, so the plane flew at a reduced speed, about 500 km per hour, which caused excessive fuel consumption. Realizing that I couldn’t reach Novosibirsk, I decided to land the plane in the ground, in a wheat field. How correct everything was will be decided by the commission that is currently working.

- Your condition – how did you make the decision?

- I understood: you need to control yourself, you need composure and understanding of what you are doing, how to fly ahead of the plane and imagine what will happen next. The only way.

- How did you choose this field for planting?

- There was a forest nearby, and swamps everywhere. This field was the only one where it was possible to plant. I acted according to instructions.

There was no panic among the passengers, everything was calm, each of the crew strictly carried out their work according to the documents. When we landed, turned off the engines, gave the command to evacuate, the conductors calmly helped everyone get out of the plane through the inflatable ramp. I also helped the passengers when they landed, I helped carry things out, and the last one left the plane. He walked through the cabin of the aircraft, checked everything and then left it.

And then I talked with the passengers, asked who needed what, no one needed medical assistance. Everyone is safe, the plane is intact, no one was hurt. People were already picking up their luggage when they waited for the Ministry of Emergency Situations to arrive; everyone had to be taken away from the plane. Passengers received all their belongings.

- Many experts now believe that you are not right and were supposed to land in Omsk...

- Let them write. They don't know what really happened there. An investigation is underway. Everyone now has a thousand versions, and, sitting calmly in the office, they can say whatever they want... God forbid that they should be in our place. There was little time, and the decision had to be made reasonably, because this failure of the hydraulic system leads to many consequences - from increasing the landing distance to everything else negative.

When we made the decision to move to an alternate airfield in Novosibirsk, we took into account all the factors influencing the increase in fuel consumption. Everything went fine for us, so we flew there with peace of mind. There the landing strip is longer, and you can land safely at the airport. But I had to sit down in the field...

- When you were already on earth, what feeling did you experience?

- I was happy. Then my brother called and I said everything was fine. And I said to myself - thank God that everything worked out.

The faces of the pilots who landed the plane on the field: the lives of the heroes in photographs

The faces of the pilots who landed the plane on the field: the lives of the heroes in photographs

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