RFT 130: Aircraft Lightning Strikes

October 27, 2017

Lightning has the potential to cause catastrophic damage to aircraft. It is estimated that lightning will strike an aircraft every 1000 flight hours, normally without serious complications. One of the more famous aircraft accidents caused by lightning was the 1963 crash of Pan Am flight 214, which crashed near the University of Delaware.

An immediate result of that crash was the requirement for all turbojet passenger aircraft to have lightning-dissipating static discharge wicks installed on the airplane wingtips. In addition, it was recommended that all jet aircraft use jet A fuel, rather than more volatile kerosene. Today, in the event of a lightning strike, the aluminum fuselage acts like a Faraday cage and diverts the thousands of amperes of electricity around the aircraft, not through it.

Here is more information from the Flight Safety Foundation:

When Lightning Strikes

 

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