Windshield cracks after plane flies into hailstorm

A United Airlines flight was forced to do an emergency landing after its windshield was cracked by hail, according to a passenger and the airline.

Flight UA349 bound for Dulles, left Chicago just before 2pm local time on Monday and made a loop over Lake Michigan before abruptly returning to O’Hare International Airport, according to data from tracking site Flight Radar 24.

Alex Lang, a passenger on the flight, tweeted a photo of the front windshield of the airliner, an Airbus A320, showing it cracked on its left side.

United confirmed that the flight turned back “due to severe weather.”

The plane landed safely, and passengers were able to start their journey over again on a new plane, the airline said in a statement.

United declined to answer questions about the weather or why the pilot might have flown into a storm.

Lang told Chicago radio station WBBM that the trouble started shortly after takeoff, describing the plane being subject to a four-minute barrage of hail.

“It was loud,” he said. “It was just big pieces of hail hitting sheet metal pretty much.”

Casey Sullivan, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Chicago office, said there were storms across the Lake Michigan region Monday afternoon. The forecasting agency received two reports of one-inch pieces of hail in the region, Sullivan said.