MIAMI – Passengers on an Air Europa flight from Miami to Madrid said their airplane was forced to return to Florida in midflight because of a cracked windshield in the cockpit.
Tony Wood, who was on Air Europa flight 98 when it left Miami International Airport just before 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, said there was a storm outside during the flight.
"It was bumpy, and it was concerning," he told Local 10 News.
Fellow passengers Adam Wright and Cristina Dwyer said the turbulence was intense.
"I've never been in that much turbulence in my life," Wright said.
Wood, Wright and Dwyer said an announcement was made about an hour into the flight that the plane was turning around.
"Then we started circling a couple of times," Wright said.
Wood said the flight crew said why.
"(They said) that we'd been struck by lightning," he said.
Miami International Airport spokesman Greg Chin confirmed that a lightning strike caused damage to the plane. The Federal Aviation Administration said flight officials reported damage to the windshield after takeoff.
The FAA said the flight safely returned to the airport at 11:30 p.m.
Wood took a photograph of a windshield as he passed the cockpit to get off the plane. He was one of dozens of passengers forced to wait in a long line to check in at a nearby hotel.
The airline told Local 10 News that there was a safety issue during the flight that required the plane to return to Miami.
A Local 10 News camera spotted an Air Europa plane on the tarmac.
Cellphone video showed the plane landing while passengers could be heard clapping in the background.
Another photo of the plane, taken from inside the terminal, showed another view of the cockpit's windshield.
"It looked like it was almost completely shattered," Wright said.
The passengers who were on the flight are waiting to see when they'll be back in the air.
"My heart kind of went out to the pilots at that point," Wright said. "Because it must have been a lot more drastic for them than it was for us at the back."
Chin said 178 people were on the plane.
He said all passengers were provided transportation to lodging for the night.
Passengers told Local 10 News that they were told to return to the airport in the morning, only to find out that the plane was sitting on the tarmac waiting for repairs to be done.
Passengers have been instructed to return to the airport at 5 a.m. for a light to Madrid.
Frustrated passengers had a message for the airline.
"If something happens like this again, I know it wasn't your fault, but you really need to inform the passengers of what's going on because we have all been sitting here waiting for hours for answers and we haven't gotten any," Ariel Riske said.