Hail Storm Shreds Austrian Airlines Jet’s Nosecone and Batters Cockpit Windows

ByTravelling For Business

June 10, 2024
Austrian Airlines flight from Palma de Mallorca to Vienna sustains heavy damage in hail storm, tearing off the nosecone and battering cockpit windows. Despite severe weather, the plane lands safely.

An Austrian Airlines Airbus A320-200 experienced severe damage after flying through a hail storm, as revealed by recent images. The aircraft’s nosecone was almost completely torn off and the cockpit windows were heavily battered, leaving them nearly opaque.

The incident occurred on flight OS434 from Palma de Mallorca to Vienna on Sunday, June 9. As the aircraft encountered a thunderstorm cell, the pilots issued a mayday call to air traffic controllers due to the extent of the damage. Despite the severe weather and damage, the plane landed safely in Vienna, where technicians are now inspecting the aircraft.

Photos taken at Vienna Airport show the radome, a composite fibre cover that protects the weather radar on the plane’s nose, was significantly damaged. The cockpit windows, though badly battered, withstood the impact without breaking due to their three overlapping layers of specially strengthened plastics.

A spokesperson for Austrian Airlines explained that the severe weather was not visible on the aircraft’s weather radar, leading to the unexpected encounter with the hail storm.

Emmeley Oakley, a passenger on the flight, recounted the experience to ABC News: “I think we were about 20 minutes from landing when we got into a cloud of hail and thunderstorm, and the turbulence started.” She described the turbulence caused by the hailstorm as lasting around two minutes, during which “phones and cups” flew around the cabin. “It was a pretty uneventful flight for 90 per cent of the trip,” she added.

This event echoes a similar incident in 2017 when Captain Alexander Akopov successfully landed a Turkish Atlasglobal Airbus after it was heavily damaged by hailstones during a flight from Istanbul to Erkan, Cyprus. The windscreen of that jet was also rendered opaque by the storm.

Hailstorms are known for causing significant damage not only to aircraft but also to agriculture. In May, large hailstones destroyed substantial parts of French vineyards in the Chablis region, with Meteo France reporting “petanque boule-sized” hailstones.

“The hail tore everything apart. It devastated a good part of the whole vineyard,” said Arnaud Nahan, co-owner of Domaine du Chardonnay.

The resilience and expertise of pilots and the robust engineering of modern aircraft are crucial in navigating such extreme weather conditions, ensuring passenger safety even in unexpected and severe storms.