CHICAGO (CBS) — A United Airlines flight to Washington, D.C. was returned to O’Hare International Airport Monday afternoon, after a hailstorm left the windshield cracked.

United Flight 349 was headed from Chicago to Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, when it had to turn around, the airline said.

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United said its operations team reported that the windshield of the plane was cracked as it went through a hailstorm.

As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Monday night, a passenger who was onboard says not only was it the worst turbulence he’s ever experienced, but he added that fight attendants on board also expressed the same thing.

The cockpit windshield was left completely splintered.

Alex Lang was on the flight, and issued a tweet that showed the cracked windshield.

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“Ten minutes into the air, all of a sudden, I guess we passed through a storm, and then — a hailstorm, so it was pretty bad,” Lang told CBS 2. “It was probably the worst turbulence I ever experienced.”

Lang said when that extreme turbulence picked up — and the sound of intense hail hitting the sheet metal adding to the concern in the air.

“It was a battering of just hail for six to eight minutes,” he said.

FlightAware shows the plane headed east from O’Hare and ran into severe storms several miles out over Lake Michigan. The plane then swung north and back south over the lake, and finally back west to O’Hare. The total time in the air was about an hour.

FlightAware: United Flight Caught In Hailstorm

(Credit: FlightAware)

“I don’t usually get like stomach-sick or anything, but that time it felt, you know, it was just like up and down like a roller coaster,” Lang said.

“We have birds hit those cockpit windows. We sometimes have debris. Here we have hail,” said DePaul University transportation expert Joe Schwieterman. “That sort of thing can really affect the dynamics of an airplane if it affects the engines. It was a scary moment today.”
Lang and the others on board were put on a different plane and eventually did make it to D.C. on a much less eventful flight.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a terrifying experience,” Lang said.

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Ambulances and firefighters were standing by as the plane landed, but they were not needed as nobody was injured.

Charlie De Mar