An Airbus A321 operated by Russia’s Ural Airlines was forced to land in a cornfield Aug. 15 after its CFM-56 engines ingested a flock of sea gulls shortly after takeoff from Moscow’s Zhukovsky International Airport.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations reported that 10 of the 233 people on board were injured.

The A321 was operating as flight U6178 to Simferopol, Crimea.

According to initial reports, the aircraft sustained substantial damage to its wings, engines and fuselage. Passengers were able to evacuate the aircraft via escape slides.

According to the Russian Ministry of Transport, the aircraft hit the birds just after takeoff from runway 12 at 0615 a.m. local time, seriously damaging the engines. The pilots decided to land the aircraft in a field close to three kilometers beyond the runway threshold. Both engines were shut down before landing, the authority said. There was no fire, but smoke was seen coming from the right engine. No fuel leak was reported.

Ural Airlines said the captain is 41 years old and has more than 3,000 flight hours. The first officer is 23 years old and has around 600 hours of flying experience.

The crew told Russian media that the left engine failed completely after ingesting the birds. The right engine had substantial damage and no longer provided enough thrust for the aircraft to stay airborne. According to reports, the captain took control of the aircraft. Both engines were shut off completely just before landing. The gear was not extended.

The A321, registered VQ-BOZ, was first delivered to Kibris Turk Hava Yollari in 2004 and was later operated by Atlas Jet. Ural has been flying it on lease since 2011.

Ural Airlines operates 45 aircraft: 24 A320s, 16 A321s and five A319s.

The airline took delivery of its first CFM International LEAP-1A-powered A320neo earlier this month. The airline expects to receive three LEAP-powered A321neos by year-end. It also plans to add 10 Boeing 737 MAXs and expects the first aircraft to arrive late 2019 to early 2020.

Zhukovsky, Ural’s second largest base after Yekaterinburg, handles 60% of passenger traffic from the Moscow airport. 

Ural carried 9 million passengers in 2018, making it the fourth largest Russian airline.

Ural Airlines has never had accidents or severe incidents previously.

Jens Flottau, jens.flottau@avitionweek.com