Last updated: 04:14 PM ET, Sat August 08 2015

Hail Storm Pelts Delta Aircraft, Forces Emergency Landing

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | August 08, 2015

Hail Storm Pelts Delta Aircraft, Forces Emergency Landing

Photo via Twitter/sorrogrande

With zero visibility through a smashed windshield and a plane full of terrified passengers, a Delta pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in Denver Friday after flying through a hailstorm, ABC News reported.

Passenger Beau Sorensen said to The Weather Channel there was a delay before the departure from Boston, "and the pilot warned us of a little chop as he was routed between two storms. The next thing we know, we are bouncing around in some very big turbulence,” he told The Weather Channel. “We heard loud banging sounds and saw lightning arcing on the right wing. We banked abruptly and descended sharply, by then kids were crying and people were upset.”

Passenger Rob Wessman told ABC News passengers were holding hands and crying. "I was nervous," he said. "I was messaging my wife, actually. 'Hey, this is pretty scary.'"

Pounded by the chunks of precipitation, the pilots decided to abort the journey to Salt Lake City short and head to Denver International instead.

But there were two issues that could make it difficult to touch down safely.

ABC News said hail penetrated the metal nose of the jet and damaged a GPS system crucial to both pilots and air traffic controllers in landings.

And then there was the matter of the front windshield — the pilot’s most direct view of the flight path.

On cockpit audio, via ABC News, the pilot can be heard saying to Salt Lake City air traffic controllers, “Just be advised that both our forward windshields have significant damage,” calling it a “forward visibility problem.”

The pilot added he would “probably do an Autoland,” meaning he would land by autopilot.

Despite the damage, the pilots landed the aircraft without incident, Delta told ABC News in a statement.

A Denver International Airport spokesperson told ABC News that one person requested transport to the hospital.

Passenger Beau Sorenson said to ABC News he didn't realize how bad the damage was until landing. "I didn't realize that we were in as much danger as we were until we got on the ground and actually saw the damage to the plane," Sorenson said. "Then I realized we were lucky to be alive."

The Federal Aviation Administration has started an investigation.

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