A Turkish passenger plane came remarkably close to crashing into the Black Sea on Saturday night. A Pegasus Airways flight to the city of Trabzon skidded off the runway and onto a cliff, hanging just yards above the water. Amazingly not one of the 168 people on board was injured. Nonetheless, these photos of the flight PC 8622 Turkey plane landing show just how harrowing of an experience it was for the passengers.
Data from a flight-tracking website show that the plane, at a landing altitude of just 25 feet, seems to have been moving much faster than other planes on that route in the last week. On Saturday the speed was 110 knots, when other recent flights at a similar altitude were around just 10 knots. Weather readings from Saturday night show that there was light rain and fog, but the temperature was well above freezing.
The Boeing 737-800 sat on its belly in the same spot well into Sunday morning, allowing local news crews to capture the scene from above. Exactly what transpired so that the plane ended so far from the runway was unclear. Regionial Gov. Yucel Yavuz told reporters Sunday that investigators were investigating the crash, and had kept the airport closed through 8 a.m. local time.
Pegasus, the low-cost airline that operated the flight, issued a statement on the matter, calling it a "Runway Excursion Incident." Pegasus acknowledged they were "sorry" to report the incident, but stressed that everyone onboard was OK.
All 162 passengers, 2 pilots and 4 cabin crew have been disembarked safely from the aircraft. There has been no loss of life or injury to anyone on-board.
Based on some first-hand accounts at the scene, that may have been quite lucky. Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency quoted passengers who described the scene on the plane at the time as panic. One passenger, Fatma Gördü, was quoted by the agency as saying that the plane was shaking as it landed — "We tilted to the side, the front was down while the plane’s rear was up. There was panic. People shouting, screaming."
Another unnamed passenger told Turkish media publication Daily Sabah that a fire was a possibility because they could smell fuel on the plane. "There was a smell of fuel inside so we all thought the plane [would] explode, but thankfully it did not happen," the passenger said, noting that passengers were on the plane for at least 20 minutes before help arrived.
The photos posted online show the nighttime rescue operations, with just the tail of the plane visible from the level of the runway. The rest of the plane was hanging over the side of the cliff with the nose pointing down. The back door appears to be open with an evacuation slide jutting off to the side. One emergency exit over the wing is also seen to be open.
Aerial photos taken in daylight Sunday suggest that the plane's engine on the right side was ripped off. It's not possible to make it out entirely, but what could be an engine is visible in the water below.
Arrivals and departures out of the airport seemed to be back to normal by later on Sunday. According to The Telegraph, the airline had cancelled two incoming and one outgoing flight from the airport early Sunday morning.
Passengers on flight PC 8622, which had started its journey from Ankara, the Turkish capital, were happy to be alive. Yüksel Gördü, another passenger, told Turkish media, "The plane could have caught fire or fell into the sea. I thank God it didn't."
The luck of the close call will likely be remembered by all 168 on board for the rest of their lives.