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Huge praise for pilots who landed plane destroyed by massive hail stones

Passengers screamed as phones and cups flew around a plane when its nose was ripped off by heavy hail on the way from Palma de Mallorca to Vienna.

Austrian Airways flight OS434 was preparing to land at Vienna International Airport when it flew into a hailstorm, shattering its cockpit windows around 18,000 feet yesterday.

The storm had not been visible on the Airbus A320’s weather radar, located under the nose, which the hailstones also ripped off within seconds.

One passenger, Emmeley Oakley, told 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.

‘We could definitely feel the hail coming down on the plane and it was quite loud and of course super rocky for a minute.’

Damage to the windows left the pilots flying ‘blind’, prompting them to declare an emergency, Austrian Wings magazine reported.

But despite almost no visibility through the shattered windows, they were able to safely make an emergency landing at Vienna using the instrument landing system.

It was only when emergency services met the plane on the runway, where passengers disembarked, that the people on board realised the damage.

Emergency crews met the plane on the runway, where passengers disembarked by stairs.

Oakley said: ‘It wasn’t until we exited that we saw the nose was missing. The pilots really did an excellent job keeping things as smooth and safe as they could.’

No one was injured in the incident, but the airplane is expected to be out of service for several weeks at least.

It’s estimated to have sustained hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage. It is not yet clear if it can be repaired, Austrian Wings said.

A spokesperson for Austrian Airways said: ‘The aircraft was caught in a thunderstorm cell on approach to Vienna, which the cockpit crew said was not visible on the weather radar.

‘According to current information, the hail damaged the two front cockpit windows of the aircraft, the nose of the aircraft (radome) and some of the panels. Due to the damage, the Mayday emergency call was made.

‘The aircraft was able to land safely at Vienna-Schwechat Airport. All passengers on the flight were uninjured.

‘The Austrian Airlines technical team has already been entrusted with the specific damage assessment of the aircraft in question.

‘The safety of our passengers and our crews is Austrian Airlines’ top priority.’

It is the second Airbus A320 to sustain ‘long-term total failure’ in Austrian Airways’ service, Austrian Wings reported.

A new £87million A320neo lost part of its tail after colliding with a passenger bridge when it started rolling towards Vienna’s terminal building in April.

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