WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish commentators on Wednesday hailed the successful emergency landing of a Boeing airliner at Warsaw airport as a miracle and emotional catharsis for a nation that lost its president and dozens of other state officials in an aviation disaster last year.The daily Super Express splashed the title “Miracle at Okecie” on its front page. Okecie is the Warsaw suburb where the Frederic Chopin International Airport is located. It was there that a Boeing 767 carrying 231 people from the U.S. made a rare emergency landing on its belly Tuesday after its landing gear failed to open.
The landing was so smooth that some passengers thought they had landed on wheels, and the pilot Capt. Tadeusz Wrona is being hailed as a hero in Poland and online.
Though some sparks and small fires erupted on landing, they were immediately put out and nobody was injured.
Several Facebook pages sprang up immediately to express admiration for Wrona, with some calling him a “superhero.”
“Fly like an eagle and land like a crow,” runs one phrase coined by fans on Facebook, a play on the word “wrona,” which in Polish means crow.
The successful landing of the plane brought huge relief to a nation that is still heavily focused on the aviation disaster in Smolensk, Russia, in April 2010, where President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others died when their plane crashed in heavy fog. A Polish government report put much of the blame for that accident on poor pilot training and faulty security procedures within the Polish air force.
In contrast, the Polish crew’s landing of the faulty plane has been hailed as masterful and a textbook-perfect example of how to carry out an emergency procedure.
President Bronislaw Komorowski — Kaczynski’s successor — praised the crew and emergency workers on the ground for their successful operation and said he plans to bestow state decorations on them.
“Most of the observers of the operation at Okecie certainly had in their memories scenes from a year and a half ago, from Smolensk,” commentator Michal Schuldrzynski wrote in the conservative daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita on Wednesday. “At that time, things ended in a catastrophe; this time we were witnesses to a miracle.”
Strangely, however, the hero of the moment in Poland was nowhere to be seen in public. LOT airlines declined requests for interviews with Wrona, saying he and other crew members are resting.
“They have the right to rest after such an experience,” LOT spokesman Andrzej Kozlowski said.
They also refused to release a photo of the pilot or biographical information about him.
Meanwhile, a team of Boeing experts from the United States are expected in Poland on Wednesday to consult on the way to remove the plane from the runway and inspect its technical condition, Kozlowski said.
However, heavy fog has grounded planes at several Polish airports that were to have taken over some of the flights in and out of Warsaw. It wasn’t immediately clear if that would prevent the Boeing officials from arriving in Warsaw.
Airports in Krakow, Lodz, Katowice, Gdansk and Poznan have had to cancel or postpone departures and arrivals due to the fog, a frequent occurrence in November in Poland.
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