"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 1,300 metres, the hailstones cracked the cockpit windows - preventing the pilot from seeing his runway approach.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the captain to congratulate him and awarded him with the Ukrainian Order of Courage. The pilots of other planes greeted the plane by flashing their lights and came aboard to shake the pilots' hands.