Crew of Siberian UTair plane tell of 'confusion and silence' from air traffic controllers at key moment.
UTair praised the captain for his 'composure and professional excellence' after 'appropriately' assessing the situation. Picture: Miguel Angel
Alarming footage of the near miss at the major Spanish airport has been seen round the world after going viral. But now the flight crew of the UTair Boeing 767 - packed with more than 260 tourists - have spoken about their quick thinking action which prevented an air catastrophe.
The video shows the UTair plane flying from Moscow on its final approach as it prepares to land in Barcelona.
In a heart-stopping incident on Saturday, an Aerolineas Argentineas Airbus A340 emblazoned with the Skyteam logo taxis across its path.
The UTair plane abruptly pulls up in an emergency manoeuvre avoiding the risk of disaster.
Co-pilot Kirill Kuzmin, talking to 'Izvestia' newspaper: 'Before getting close to the runway we heard the air traffic controller's command allowing Argentinians to cross the runway after we had landed. The Argentinians repeated the comment which meant that they heard and accepted it.
'But then suddenly - and without a clear reason - the Argentinians got onto the runway just as our altitude was going below 100 metres'.
Kuzmin stated: 'The air traffic controller clearly got confused. He went silent. We had nothing else to do than go on a second round. We have worked on this situation many times during training.'
Up, up and away - Russian pilots's quick thinking prevented air catastrophe. Pictures: Miguel Angel
Kuzmin's account suggests two matters of concern at one of Europe's busiest holiday airports.
First that the Argentine plan disobeyed the instruction and crossed the busy runway BEFORE the Russian plane landed.
Second that the air traffic controller 'got confused' and 'went silent' at the crucial moment, failing to order the UTair plane to abort its landing.
Kuzmin said the air traffic controller 'apologised', saying the incident had been a 'failure'.
Nikolay Limarev, the UTair captain, said: 'As we were getting ready to land, about 10, 15 seconds prior to reaching the rear end of the runway, we noticed the Argentinian Airbus A340-300 moving at 60 degrees towards the runway we were approaching.
'The weather was fine, so after the Argentinian plane reached the runway and got onto it, we went onto a second round, not waiting for the air traffic controller's command. It took us about 15 minutes to complete the second round.
'When we finished it we approached the airport again and successfully landed at El Prat.
'As we were taxiing the airport's controller apologised on the radio for the situation.'
Limarev, who began his flying career in Yakutia, warned that the Barcelona incident 'could have been serious if the weather was no clear as it was on that day'. He also stated that the air traffic controller was 'silent' at the key moment.
UTair - based at Khanty-Mansiysk in Siberia - praised the captain for his 'composure and professional excellence' after 'appropriately' assessing the situation.
The airline said that the matter was under 'investigation'.
Plane enthusiast Miguel Angel, who filmed the drama, described it as 'one of the worst experiences I have ever had'.
He uploaded the video to YouTube, where it subsequently went viral, with more than one million hits since Saturday.