Poland honors crew who made safe emergency landing

AP News
Posted: Nov 07, 2011 10:17 AM
Poland honors crew who made safe emergency landing

The pilot, co-pilot and other crew members of a Boeing 767 that made an astonishing emergency landing in Warsaw last week were honored Monday with state medals.

Some of the crew wiped tears from their eyes when one passenger, a singer, sang to thank them and the airport emergency services during a ceremony at the presidential palace.

President Bronislaw Komorowski expressed his heartfelt thanks to the crew and the ground workers "on behalf of all Poland, which held its breath while watching the dramatic developments."

Komorowski said the pilot's skill and expertise saved many lives, but also gave the Poles a powerfully "positive" outcome.

The LOT airlines plane carrying 231 people from Newark, New Jersey made the emergency landing Nov. 1 after its landing gear failed to open.

Komorowski decorated the crew members and representatives of airport ground and rescue services with medals. Among them was pilot Capt. Tadeusz Wrona, who became an instant hero in Poland, who was awarded the Officer's Cross of the Order of Poland's Rebirth.

Wrona and co-pilot Jerzy Szwarc landed the plane so carefully that some passengers thought it had landed on wheels until they saw smoke, fire and sparks. Emergency workers immediately doused the plane and nobody was hurt.

Known for his modesty, Wrona said he was dedicating his medal to the emergency crew who prepared the Frederic Chopin airport in Warsaw for their safe touchdown.

"They are the true heroes, it was thanks to them that it all ended well," Wrona said.

In April 2010, Poland lost President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and 94 others when the president's plane crashed while trying to land in dense fog in Russia.