This is not a club you want to join—the “Busted Windshield, Dented Airframe Society.” Last week an airliner bound for Philly had its lights punched out by hail. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s really expensive.
A picture being worth a few thousand blog words helps with the motivation to keep a healthy distance from the good ‘ole big ones!
From the Skybrary website, Figure 1 and Figure 2 are pictures from an Airbus 321 flown by a foreign carrier over Korea that encountered severe hail: The windshield wiped out and radome was ruined (gone actually). Damage was also noted on the leading edges of the wings and empennage.
Side effects included the inability to look out the front of the aircraft—landing was a bit challenging. A huge amount of noise in the cockpit made communication very difficult.
Suspect the discussion with the chief pilot wasn’t exactly career enhancing. Failure to keep up with the weather, no warning from ATC, and cutting it too close were cited. The tough part about this is that most of the time there isn’t any hail. However, the answer that “It always worked before” won’t always buy you a sympathetic audience with the boss or your insurance agent.
Figure 3 is a low altitude shot of a possible hail shaft. (Although it could be rain, we didn’t get close enough to test!) This was taken on the trip from STL to FDK referenced in last week’s blog. We were a good 15 miles away (as best we could estimate) from the storm at 5,000. VFR pilots take note—this isn’t just a problem for the IFR dudes and dudettes!
As we get into thunderstorm season proper, remember that whatever it’s doing now, in ten minutes it will be different (often worse). A reminder that the Air Safety Institute’s Storm Week begins on June 8, and the live “Datalink: Cockpit Weather Do’s and Don’ts” webinar will be held June 11 at 7:00 p.m. EDT.