Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Cars & TransportationAircraft · 1 decade ago

Can a plane in flight be struck by lightning?

I realise that it won't be earthed but does it still happen?

44 Answers

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  • Paul B
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Estimates show that each commercial airliner averages one lighting hit per year but the last crash that was attributed to lightning was in 1967 when the fuel tank exploded, causing the plane to crash. Generally, the first contact with lightning is at an extremity...the nose or a wingtip. As the plane continues to fly through the areas of opposite charges, the lightning transits through the aircraft skin and exits through another extremity point, frequently the tail (as shown by Gauss's Law).

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  • 1 decade ago

    Yes. I've had to help repair aircraft post lightning strike. You can tell when it has because it will have two small burn marks/holes on the airframe, an entry and exit point. When it lands, the avionics, electrical systems and the flying controls have to be fully checked for faults. Fuses have to be checked and the panels that took the brunt of the strike have to be repaired/replaced. Aircraft (especially airliners) are safe from the strikes as the lightning tends to go around the external airframe of the aircraft, so passengers won't notice the effect. It's not unsafe for the people on board, but the avionics may have problems until it is investigated and repaired. The aircraft usually doesn't fly for 1-2 weeks after the incident while groundcrew fix it.

    Don't worry about it though. It's not as bad as it seems.

    More modern aircraft are totally shielded from the effects, so no damage is taken.

    Oh, and the guy who said that the aircraft has nothing magnetic in it was talking complete crap. When you pass an electrical current through a wire, you produce a magnetic field. When the system power is on, magnetic fields are present.

    Source(s): 5 1/2 years in the RAF as an Avionics technician
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  • 1 decade ago

    Sigh, a lot of responses here from people who dont know what they're talking about again....!!

    Yes, an aircraft can be - and is quite often struck by lightning in flight although though pilots will try and navigate above or around storms whenever possible.

    Modern aircraft are tested for Electromagnetic Compatability / Interference during their development stage - which includes testing them for reaction to lightning strikes. As the fuselage is electromagnetically shielded, the lightning tends to be discharged around the airframe and back to earth, thus avoiding any of the equipment or the pink fleshy bits inside.

    Older, previous generation airframes that have not been subjected to rigourous EMC testing may be more succeptible to the effects of strikes - depending on area of impact and the kit affected, but these occurences are very rare nowadays.

    Bottom line is, all modern passenger airlines that you fly on will have been tested and cleared, to withstand lightning strikes without any catastrophic effects.

    Source(s): I work in Flight Testing!
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  • 1 decade ago

    Yes it can happen. Airplanes taking off in a storm can be struck. My friend was on a flight when lightning knocked out one of the engines. They continued onto Chicago but the connecting flight to Boston was delayed. Also if the airplane is flying below the clouds, lightning can strike the aircraft.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I was on an easi-jet flying to athens, when the flight was 30 minutes from landing i saw lightning comimg toward the aircraft,

    it struck the plane between the engine & fuselage,making quite

    a large noise,my partner disbelieved that I had seen it ,but the

    captain immeditely came on the tanoid and said we had just been struck by lightning, there was absolutely no problem as all aircraft were designed to withstand it.

    ralph

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  • Cheryl
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    An airplane can actually trigger a lightning bolt as it flies through an electrically charged cloud. In aluminum aircraft, typically, a bolt moves backward across a wing or fuselage before the charge exits to the ground. Since current flows on the outside of a conductor. The airplane's electronic flight instruments are shielded from disruption by the intense electromagnetic field. HTH

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  • Yes it can. The lightning will pass through an airplane with no problem. Conceivably through it's occupants as well. I have seen a jet engine ruined by lightning. While the engine continued to run after the strike, it had to be replaced because all of the bearings and many of the fan blades were burned.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yes it can, if you ever look at the trailing edge of the wings you will notice small rods similar in shape to a pencil. These are called (Static Discharge wicks). As the jet flies thru the air it creates static electricity, these wicks allow the electricity to disperse into the atmosphere.

    If the lightning strikes the plane then that means the bolt of lightning has already found a path to ground and if the aircraft is in that path then it will be struck because it's already charged with electricity.

    Source(s): I am an Aircraft mechanic.
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  • 1 decade ago

    yes, but it won't do too much damage as lightning needs an earth, so it will either go round the plane or right through it, passing on to the ground below.

    the only thing i would freak out about is if the plane is hit by a bolt of positive lightning.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yes it can and does. Great measures are taken to move a lightning strike away from any essential components and fuel. Many aircraft get struck by lightning every year!!

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  • 1 decade ago

    Yes, they can get struck by lgihting, but it will not or atleast shouldnt have any effect on the palne, planes are designed like lighting rods.

    You can read about one passenger jet that got struck by lightning in FLYING

    Source(s): FLYING magazine article
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