31 May 2011
Posted in WFTV Severe Weather Center 9
Planes are built to endure the most extreme weather conditions including lightening strikes.
Let us dispel the myth that if your plane gets struck by lightning it could spell disaster. This is not true. In fact, a plane getting struck by lightning is a common occurrence in aviation and has little effect on the flight. As far as anyone knows, the odds are that each airliner in the USA will be hit by lightning roughly once a year.
Because most airplanes are made of aluminum, a good natural conductor of electricity, lightening is able to flow along the airplanes outer skin and back into the atmosphere. This coupled with the fact that, all airplanes are required to have a built-in system ensuring that a spark will not ignite fuel or fuel vapor in tanks or fuel lines, makes airplanes adapt well to lightning strikes. During a 1980s lightning research project, NASA flew an F-106B jet into 1,400 thunderstorms and lightning hit it at least 700 times, without any cause for concern. Still, this led to requirements to have built-in lightning protection for electronics as an extra precaution.
Although lightning striking an airplane may seem extreme and potentially disastrous, it really is quite an uneventful phenomena in the aviation community. Planes are designed with many extra precautions to prevent lightening from ruining your travel experience. Rest assured, next time you fly through a lightning storm, just remember, you are flying high and dry through some of the safest front-row seats to one of nature’s most fearsome phenomena.