Polish pilot rejects 'hero' label, says he did what he was trained to do

WARSAW, Poland

Captain Tadeusz Wrona said all talk of his heroism "is exaggerated."

The 54-year-old pilot for the Polish national carrier LOT deflected the praise, saying he merely did what he was trained to do.

"We knew we could make no mistake and that the contact with the ground should not be hard," Wrona told a news conference in Warsaw. "I am absolutely sure that each of us (pilots) would have done it the same way, and that the result would have been the same."

Wrona set the jetliner down so gently that many of the 231 people on board thought it had landed on its wheels - until they saw fire, sparks and smoke rising from beneath the aircraft as it slid down the Warsaw airport runway.

His voice shaking at times as he struggled for words, Wrona said he felt "a huge relief" when he knew everyone aboard the flight from Newark, N.J., had reached safety - and he wondered whether he might have executed the landing even more effectively.

LOT says the plane suffered "a central hydraulic system failure," that caused all three sections of the landing gear - the nose gear and the two main underwing gears - to fail. Such a complete undercarriage failure was unprecedented for a Boeing 767 and highly unusual overall, according to aviation data and experts.

Poles experienced a major air disaster last year, when a plane crashed in Smolensk, Russia, in heavy fog killing Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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