The Polish pilot who made a successful emergency landing at Warsaw International Airport Tuesday said he felt a “huge relief” once the 231 people onboard the Boeing aircraft were safely off the plane.
The sentiment came as Capt. Tadeusz Wrona addressed reporters at a news conference Wednesday.
"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," Wrona said. "I felt huge relief when the head flight attendant reported that the plane was empty."
Wrona and copilot Jerzy Szwartz have been heralded as heroes in the wake of the emergency landing, though it is a title the pilot is reluctant to accept.
"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.
The airliner was flying from Newark, N.J. to Warsaw when the undercarriage would not open. The incident forced the pilot to dump the remaining fuel on board and glide on the runway without landing gear.
"I have flown this plane 500 times and this is the first time the undercarriage did not open," Wrona said.
The successful landing was welcomed news to a nation still recovering from a April 2010 plane crash that killed 96 people, including the president and other top members of the Polish government. Poor pilot training and were blamed for the 2010 crash in Smolensk, Russia.
Officials have called the recent emergency landing as “masterful” and textbook-perfect.”
"Most of the observers of the operation at Okecie certainly had in their memories scenes from a year and a half ago, from Smolensk," wrote Michal Schuldrzynski, a commentator for the conservative daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita, on Wednesday.
"At that time, things ended in a catastrophe; this time we were witnesses to a miracle,” Schuldrzynski added.