A little bit of turbulence is enough to make some nervous flyers’ stomachs lurch, but a full on hail storm? That’s too much for even the most seasoned of travelers to handle. On Sunday night, while flying over western TTexas and east New Mexico, an American Airlines flight hit an unexpectedly rough patch of weather. Heavy rain, violent wind, and hail pummeled the aircraft and smashed the nose of the plane right in.
Not only was the nose completely destroyed, but both main windshields were cracked in spider web fashion right in front of the pilots’ eyes. Violent turbulence shook the plane, prompting many passengers to become sick. The hail was reported to be up to 2 or three inches in diameter, according to meteorologist Jeff Piotrowski’s Twitter post.
You can see the extensive damage to the plane in this photo by Holly Rush, which has been circulating over social media:
Here’s another look at the American Airlines plane that left SA Sunday evening headed to PHX, but had to make an emergency landing in ELP. Pilot reported poor forward visibility due to damage from hail. (Photo courtesy: Holly Rush) pic.twitter.com/vHdA5IWuDm
— Phil Anaya (@phil_anaya) June 5, 2018
One passenger tweeted, “I’m on this flight that emergency landed. Things were flying. Passengers throwing up. Scariest flight of my life.”
The pilots managed to maneuver the plane out of the storm, change course, and head to El Paso, Texas for an emergency landing. While some have questioned why the plane didn’t fly around the storm, the work of the pilots to safely escape from the hail and land the plane in Texas is being commended as heroic.
American Airlines issued the following statement, as published by the El Paso Times:
American Airlines flight 1897, from San Antonio to Phoenix, diverted to El Paso due to damage sustained by weather in flight. We commend the great work of our pilots, along with our flight attendants, who safely landed the Airbus A319 at 8:03 p.m. The aircraft is currently being evaluated by our maintenance team. We never want to disrupt our customers’ travel plans, and we are sorry for the trouble this caused.
Fortunately, there were no injuries during the incident.