Pretty much everyone remembers the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed a crippled U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River in 2009, saving the lives of 155 passengers. But, few people likely recall the story of the Polish pilot who landed a Boeing 767 without any landing gear back in 2011.
After flying more than 200 passengers from New York to Warsaw, Poland, Capt. Tadeusz Wrona discovered that the plane’s landing gear was non-operational. The plane circled the airport for more than an hour, while the crew tried to make repairs in the sky.
With fuel reserves dangerously low, Wrona was forced to make a tough choice and bring the plane down with nothing beneath them. The incredible landing was a success, and no one was injured.
While Wrona was immediately lauded as a hero, he was hesitant to receive praise, and even went on to say that calling him a hero was “exaggerated.”
“I am absolutely sure that each of us would have done it the same way, and that the result would have been the same,” Wrona said in a later interview. “We tried to put the plane down as gently as we could and we were successful.”
Rather than bask in his heroism, Wrona was just relieved that all of the crew and passengers were able to make it out safely, adding, “When I stopped on the runway, I still was not sure that everyone was safe because smoke and some burning from friction appeared on the ground.”
“I felt huge relief when the head flight attendant reported that the plane was empty.”
He may not like the title himself, but it’s safe to say that Tadeusz Wrona is a hero for what he did that day in the cockpit.
This post was originally published on February 22, 2017.