Delta: Questions Raised After Hailstorm Damages Windshield, Forces Emergency Landing
Massive hail that smashed the windshield of a Delta flight flying from Boston to Salt Lake City forced the pilot to make an emergency landing in Denver Friday night.
‘We Felt Like The Air Dropped Out From Under Us’
According to CBS News, it is the third incident this summer when an airliner has been damaged in a hailstorm. Questions are being raised as to why the pilots couldn’t see the approaching storm, but the passengers could on their wireless devices.
Passengers described the hail was the size of baseballs.
“Our windshield is pretty severely damaged,” the pilot told air traffic control.
In addition to hail, strong winds rattled the plane all over.
“This is Delta 1889. Denver, you need to understand we have no weather radar. That is out too,” the pilot said.
“I will keep you steady for five minutes and slowly bend you in,” air traffic control responded.
The hail cracked the windshield and completely damaged the nose cone.
“There were times when we felt like the air dropped out from under us. We could see lightning spider-webbing over the wings and hail pounding the plane,” passenger Beau Sorensen said.
Sorensen said the passengers were distressed and screaming as the plane entered the thunderstorm in Nebraska near the Colorado border. He compared the plane’s sideways and upward and downward movements, as it battled through the storm, to a cork on a rough sea.
“I fly constantly and this was the scariest 10 minutes of my life,” Robin Jones told KSTU-TV after the other plane landed at the Salt Lake International Airport early Saturday morning.
“I thought, ‘OK. Have I told everybody that I love that I love them?’ And as soon as I realized I had done that, I was like, ‘I’m alright. Everything’s going to be OK.’”
Unplanned Emergency Landing
Delta Flight 1889 was forced to make an unscheduled emergency landing at Denver International Airport at 8:42 p.m., FAA spokesman Ian McGregor said. Paramedics treated an elderly woman who was believed to be suffering from anxiety because of the storm.
After the emergency landing, passengers saw the damage the storm had caused to the Airbus 320.
“We went around the corner from the window, we could see the shattered windshield,” Rob Wessman said.
“We could see kind of a hole over the engine where lightning had struck. We could see the nose of the plane was missing. It was really intense.”
The FAA is looking into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
“The irony is that pilots flying small planes or sometimes passengers in the cabin with a personal electronic device have the ability to see weather information that the airline pilots flying their flight don’t,” CBS News aviation and safety expert Sully Sullenberger said.
He added that the cockpits aren’t equipped with internet, and so it is difficult for the radar systems to sometimes see an impending thunderstorm approaching.
“While it’s important to keep us cyber safe, there’s got to be a way that we can get better weather info in our airliners as soon as possible,” Sullenberger said.
According to Denver Post, Delta spokeswoman Liz Savadelis said that passengers were transported to Salt Lake City on another flight.
“The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority,” she said.
Some of the children on the flight refused to board another plane, and so the parents rented cars and drove to Salt Lake City.
The damage to the plane is being looked into by a team of Delta maintenance workers.