Gigantic hail smashes plane
A BRAVE pilot landed a passenger jet "blind" after giant hailstones smashed the cockpit's windscreen and almost tore off its nose cone.
These incredible pictures show the plane after the pilot's heroic emergency landing at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport with 127 passengers on board, The Sun reports.
They show the severe external damage to the Airbus A320 from sudden unexpected hail during a thunder storm, and passengers crying and praying as the stricken plane comes in to a shaky landing.
A voice on the ground is heard saying: "He won't do it, he won't do it."
Brave pilot lands plane "blind"
Captain Alexander Akopov said he and other crew were celebrating as if it was a "second birthday" after his lifesaving heroics in coping with damage caused by hailstones the size of hen's eggs.
Incredibly, his autopilot was taken out in the damage.
"I have been flying for 30 years," he said.
"Well, did you see the plane landing? Was it okay? The passengers are alive. It is normal. This is our professional reliability.
"Our locator did not show this weather disaster, this is why it happened. It was hard, but the main thing is that people are alive."
The catastrophe hit some 10 minutes after taking off on a Turkish airline Atlasglobal flight to Erkan in northern Cyprus.
Having climbed to 1300 metres, the hailstones cracked the cockpit windows - preventing the pilot from seeing his runway approach.
Самолет турецкой компании "Atlasglobal", пилотируемый украинскими пилотами, попал в град.— Boris Fogel (@Kaurus7) July 28, 2017
Oleg Lungul pic.twitter.com/CX1KvCPuCg
The captain was permitted to try and land at Ataturk airport even though it had been closed due to the atrocious weather.
Full-scale emergency protocol was in place with fire appliances and ambulances awaiting the plane.
A video shows a woman with red nails gripping a seat because of the plane's extreme shaking during the landing.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the captain to congratulate him and awarded him with the Ukrainian Order of Courage.
Aviation experts also praised the two Turkish cabin crew for their bravery.
Mass applause broke out at the airport when he landed the plane.
The pilots of other planes greeted the plane by flashing their lights and came aboard to shake the pilots' hands.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.