American Airlines flight 1897 from San Antonio, Texas, to Phoenix, Arizona, was forced to make an emergency landing Sunday night as the plane sustained heavy damage from a hail storm. The Airbus A319, carrying 130 passengers and five crew members, ran into a storm over New Mexico, forcing pilots to divert to El Paso International Airport for an emergency landing at 8:03 p.m. MDT on June 3.
No injuries have been reported and all the passengers safely deplaned in El Paso. Flight 1897 took off from San Antonio at 6:57 p.m. CDT and encountered a violent storm about an hour and a half into the flight. A new aircraft was assigned to carry the passengers the rest of the way to Phoenix late Sunday night. Photos of the damaged aircraft have since been .
"The hail has beat up our forward windshields pretty badly for American Airlines 1897. At this time, we don’t have a whole lot of forward visibility," one of the pilots .
Passengers described the experience to , saying lightning and hail were visible out the window, and violent turbulence caused phones and drinks to go flying as people vomited and panicked. The crew, however, safely landed the aircraft even though the windshield and nose cone sustained heavy damage.
“On June 3, 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. MDT," American Airlines said in a statement. “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.”
The incident reveals how serious a hail storm at high altitudes storm can be to an aircraft. Fortunately, the pilots were able to fly the damaged plane to a nearby airport, keeping everyone aboard safe if a little shaken.