August 21, 1963
Leningrad, Soviet Union: An Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-124, registration SSSR-45021, lands in the Neva River outside of Leningrad after a harrowing descent. All passengers and crew survive, while the citizens of Leningrad were given a spectacle of a landing by the stricken plane.
After departing from Tallinn, Estonia, the Tupolev pilots reported that the nose landing gear carriage did not retract after takeoff and failed to respond in any way from the flight deck. The flight was immediately diverted to Leningrad where pilots began to take turns attempting to lock the nose landing gear into place with a stick from an access hatch in the a coat closet. The crew struggled with getting the hatch to lock into place, fearing to attempt to land without a clean lock on the gear, they continued to circle on the outskirts of the city, rotating pilots after one got tired. In the midst of the attempts, the plane suffered a double-engine failure and the pilots managed to land the plane in the river. Citizens of Leningrad reported that the plane had lined up with the river, missing the Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge by only 100 feet and the Alexander Nevsky Bridge, under construction at the time, before splashing down in the 1,000 foot wide river.
Investigators would later learn that the crew, becoming so preoccupied with the landing gear, completely missed that they were out of fuel and that the double-engine failure was due to fuel starvation. The plane was nearly completely intact as it landed in the river right beside a river barge, who tossed a line to the cabin crew through an ejected windscreen who hooked it to the cabin. The tug pulled the plane to shore where the passengers and crew were able to exit the plane via a roof hatch in the fuselage.
A scene from survivors on the beach after the crash.