airtoday
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How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 6:58 am

How serious is a lightning strike to an aircraft during flight?

This morning I was arriving into Manchester (actually during descent over North Wales) on BD706 from ORD. The first thing I noticed was a feint smell of burning. I'm not sure if this was relevant but it had my senses heightened and I was alert. The next think there was a flash outside the port window ( I was sitting over the wing on the starboard side) followed immediately by a large bang and the plane shuddered. Then a flash outside my window around 20 seconds later and another shudder and bang. Then a 3rd flash and sparks flying past my window.

A pretty scary experience as I had never experienced anything like this before even though I am well travelled.

The plane landed safely and as far as I am aware there was no damage either.

So, was I lucky or is this a common occurrence?
 
EMBQA
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:02 am

Quoting Airtoday (Thread starter):
How serious is a lightning strike to an aircraft during flight?

I'd say 90% of the time a non event....sometimes the crew dosn't even know it's occured. The other 10% can cause issues. I've seen strike damage so bad it's blown holes in the fuselage and seriously damaged flight controls. Most damage looks like spot welding marks.... the flight controls, which most are composite now a days will cause delamination and burn marks. If you saw the flash, then heard the bang the plane was not hit. Just like on the ground the closer the flash and bang are together, the closer you are to the strike point. If you were hit it would all happen at once.

Port and Starboard..? what are we, on a boat....????

[Edited 2006-10-12 00:13:02]
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
 
Sabena332
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:04 am

Quoting Airtoday (Thread starter):
How serious is a lightning strike to an aircraft during flight?

Well, I am the last person who has a clue about such things but once I experienced a lighning strike while sitting in a plane. I was flying CDG-JFK on an AF 744, approx. 20 minutes before we landed at JFK I heard a loud bang and the TV monitors started to flare for three or so seconds. People started to screem and I was guessing what was going on, seconds later I heard that the English guy next to me told his seat neighbor: "A lightning hit us". I was scared for a second but then I looked at the F/A's who didn't care at all, that gave me some feeling of "everything is ok". It was indeed, we touched down at JFK on time.

So is a lighning strike indeed harmless?

Patrick
NZ1's mother is a disgusting crack-whore and his father is a worthless alcoholic!
 
EDDB
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:07 am

I had three up to now... It's not very spectacular! But of course the plane got checked on ground....
 
PanAm747
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:08 am

http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19631208-0&lang=en

One of the reasons that jet fuel was changed to a less explosive formula.

Today it is not quite as dangerous an event as it used to be - I still however wouldn't want to be the conduit!!
Pan Am:The World's Most Experienced Airline - P(oor) S(ailor's) A(irline): San Diego's Hometown Airline-Catch Our Smile!
 
Sabena332
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:14 am

Quoting EDDB (Reply 3):
But of course the plane got checked on ground....

When I left the airport I saw that the flight back to Paris was delayed by 2 hours. Now I know why, it was checked after the lightning strike.

Patrick
NZ1's mother is a disgusting crack-whore and his father is a worthless alcoholic!
 
EDDB
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:19 am

A little bit off topic... But does anybody know how the 787, or in general every aircraft with a composite fuselage, will be protected against lightning strike?
I mean usually the (metal) fuselage itself acts as a Farady cage, what if it's non-metal?
 
Speedbirdie
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 8:17 am

Ive been hit by lightening working as crew. It scared me sensless I tell you!
We had just taken off from LHR heading for errrrr Hamburg maybe. After take off we were going through the clouds as normal and then a huge flash and a bang. I completely wet myself and the CSD next to me just said 'Oh, its ok, we've just been hit by lightening'. Anyway to cut a long story short, the plane wasnt in any danger and we continued on as normal. As we were the last flight into Hamburg that night and we were stopping over, the same aircraft due to operate the first flight out was heavily delayed as it had to have a thorough check on it at first light.
Well thats my story!
Safe flying all  Smile
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BreninTW
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:36 am

Quoting EDDB (Reply 6):
But does anybody know how the 787, or in general every aircraft with a composite fuselage, will be protected against lightning strike

According to a TV programme I saw recently (Discovery Channel maybe) the B787 fuselage will have a conductive metal/mesh cage around it to take care of lightning strikes.

Bren
 
PlymSpotter
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:44 am

I think I've been hit a couple of times when flying on Dash8's, I felt a jolt of the plane and saw a slight flash, but when flying on a Dash in very bad weather you get jolted around so much that its hard to pinpoint it on the lightening although we were in a big storm at the time.

When I flew LHR-PEK with Air China the A343 I was due to fly on got struck by lightening on its approach into LHR. This picked on a single rivet and completely fried it, putting a hole in the aircraft. The maintenance crew then had to go through a very long process of officially buying 1 rivet from BA, and getting all the paperwork together for the transaction before somebody could sign the papers and the 'sale' could take place. After that fitting it was easy, quick test of the systems and we were off, 5 hours late and the last plane out of LHR for the evening at 23:59 biggrin 

Dan Smile
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N328KF
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:45 am

Three words: SCE to AUX
When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' -Theodore Roosevelt
 
TGV
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:49 am

Apparently in some cases consequences can be pretty serious: Kuwait Airways Incident @ LHR This Morning (by LHR777 Oct 11 2006 in Civil Aviation)
Avoid 777 with 3-4-3 config in Y ! They are real sardine cans. (AF/KL for example)
 
MXSUP
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 12:43 pm

Like EMBQA said, mostly a non event. Most of the time the passengers dont even know it happened, sometimes the crew doesnt either and MX finds it on the overnight. The worst damage I see is on the wingtips/winglets, and horizontal stab tips. We usually just change out the tip and send it to the shops for repair, if none in stock the SRM gives pretty broad limits on allowable damage and DMI procedures (speedtape it and ship it for 500 flight cycles).
 
warren747sp
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 3:21 pm

Only if t is postively charged. The only known incident of an airliner brought down is the Pan Am plane near Philadelphia nearly 30 years ago.
747SP
 
pilotaydin
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 5:34 pm

ive had one, we thought we died, everything went bright and silent after the bang lol then when we landed we saw that the nose cone has some moderate damage  Smile it was awesome!
The only time there is too much fuel onboard, is when you're on fire!
 
AirSpare
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 6:28 pm

I was an avionics tech at Beale. One afternoon an radio guy came in and said "A 135 is on final on an IFE, sounds like it's going to crash!", and ran out. This was in about 1980, sorry, no pics, Beale was not the easiest place to take a camera to work.

We went out to watch the "crash", nothing, just a very high landing speed. The KC-135q was hit on the nose and the strike exited the starboard wing tip, and it took 22 feet of wing with it. This I saw with my own eyes the next day when I was snagged to drive the "line truck", (delivering parts for red balls, etc.). As I was normally in the SR-71 shelters, I didn't usually have a reason to go that end of the flightline, where the tankers and T-38s park.

I talked to the boomer a few days later, he described the incident. The A/C commander and copilot were momentarily blinded by the flash/bang. The aircraft shuddered, then kept flying. There was no apparent damage. The boomer told the copilot to look out his window..."oh shit". They were missing a big chunk of wing.

Maybe KC135TopBoom has heard of this incident. But if I didn't see the Q the next day, I wouldn't have believed it.
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Silver1SWA
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 6:48 pm

Lightning strikes happen all the time. The plane gets pulled aside, inspected and usually gets back to work a few hours later. However, as mentioned, some damage can be quite significant and require heavy repair.

I recall one day last year at SAN, we (WN) had three aircraft arrive after getting struck by lightning enroute. Operationally, SAN was a mess that day.
ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
 
Gr8Circle
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:46 pm

I was on an AI 742 long back....took off from BOM in monsoon weather and just 5 minutes later, passed through dense clouds.....I was sitting on the right side ahead of the wing and saw lightning strike the right wingtip....there was just a dull booming sound.....no one else seemed to notice or bother....found out later from the pilots, that the strobe light on the wingtip was knocked out completely....

Actually, quite an enjoyable and memorable incident.... smile 
 
Speedbirdie
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 12:35 am

Quoting Warren747sp (Reply 13):
Only if t is postively charged. The only known incident of an airliner brought down is the Pan Am plane near Philadelphia nearly 30 years ago.

Pardon my ignorance, but wasnt there one recently involving a 320 coming into land somewhere in Russia? Or was it a TU154?
Never give up..
 
Jamie757
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:13 am

Quoting Speedbirdie (Reply 18):
Pardon my ignorance, but wasnt there one recently involving a 320 coming into land somewhere in Russia? Or was it a TU154?


You mean this one? Can't think of any others.  Confused

http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=20060503-0&lang=en

Pilot error was the official cause.

Rgds.
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Speedbirdie
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 3:25 am

Quoting Jamie757 (Reply 19):

Ah that was the one, thanks for clearing that up. Im sure I read somewhere that the aircraft got hit with a positive lightening bolt..
Oh well, thanks anyway.
Never give up..
 
hb88
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 3:37 am

Quoting EDDB (Reply 6):
A little bit off topic... But does anybody know how the 787, or in general every aircraft with a composite fuselage, will be protected against lightning strike?
I mean usually the (metal) fuselage itself acts as a Farady cage, what if it's non-metal?

If it's non-metal as for a composite, it wont conduct or provide any sort of faraday sheilding. So, you need to add some sort of (conducting) lightning attachment and dissipation surface or coating to the high-risk zones of the aircraft.

It gets even more complicated when you do have external conducting features to which lightning will attach - particularly if there is no conduction path to the static wicks and there is an alternative path into the structure of the aircraft. That increases the risk of sparking across any gap in a conduction path in the aircraft. Personally, I've always thought that this is one of the major headaches of 'fully' composite aircraft. Another issue is post-strike inspection - a nightmare depending on the specific part of the composite airframe which received the strike.

The only real solution is conducting composite structures, but I think that's a little way off. Until then, I'm guessing it's a very careful balance of adding metal in critical areas (around fuel tanks, fasteners etc) and hoping for the best in others.

Boeing have talked about a conducting mesh covering parts of the 787 which sounds like a bit of a compromise and pretty difficult to maintain given that strikes are a fairly frequent occurrence.
 
airfoilsguy
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 4:28 am

Not a strike but close.


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sean377
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 4:39 am

Reminds me of this:

Flying is the second greatest thrill known to man... Landing is the first!
 
eaglekeeper101
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 5:38 am

Quoting AirSpare (Reply 15):
Reply 15

Just recently, we had one of our F-15Cs return to base (uneventfully) after squawking a lightning strike. Upon inspection, it was determined that the lightning hit the left wingtip and exited through the nosecone. Upon opening the radome, we found the radar antenna mostly blown apart, pieces all over the inside of the radome, etc. The pilot said that, apart from having to restart it twice, the radar still worked afterwards.

Naturally, after repairs, the radar package hasn't worked worth jackdammit since  Wink
"The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." - Bahá'u'lláh
 
UAL Bagsmasher
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 7:05 am

CRJ's are like magnets for lightning. We had one a few weeks ago that was down for several days. Rivets were melted, fairings burned, the whole nine yards. The tailcone had damage as well and it actually had to be changed. A few months back we had a strike that resulted in EFIS Comp Mon flashing every few seconds. The flux valve needed to be changed, and sections of the wings needed to be degaussed.

The moral of the story? I'm getting better at damage mapping Wink
 
AirSpare
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 7:20 pm

Sean377, awesome video, nose strike, tail exit.

Quoting Eaglekeeper101 (Reply 24):
The pilot said that, apart from having to restart it twice, the radar still worked afterwards.

Thats wild! What kind of coverage was he getting? Haha, pilots are pretty damned smart, but usually not as smart as they think. He was probably getting a pretty nice dose of RF up the old wazoo. I worked Side Looking Radar (synthetic aperature, X band), whats the peak pulse power of the fire control radar on a C model? We pumped out about 50kw, less then a 2 microsecond PW. Sounds like that C model has a few wiring harnesses that could use replacing also.

cheers~AirSpare

(Damn, I really miss filling out 781Cs, are they still in use?)
Get someone else for your hero worship fetish
 
denplanenut
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Fri Oct 13, 2006 11:55 pm

Not so sure if it was lightning, but this summer while flying over Kansas from DEN-DAY we heard a bang, I don't remember the flash and then the plane started descending and shuddering. I fly often enough, but this time really freaked me out. I ordered a couple of margaritas shortly after to calm my nerves!
 
Tristarsteve
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Sat Oct 14, 2006 12:50 am

We get called out to do Lightning strike inspection every couple of weeks. Most of the time there is very little damage, the hardest part is finding it. Usually a burnt rivet where it struck and a melted discharger where it left. The worst I saw was about 20 burnt rivets at the nose.
But one day a DeutsheBA Fokker 100 was struck by ligtning at rotation. The ECAM message was low oil pressure Left engine, and the drill was to shut the engine down. As they shut down the left engine they got an ECAM message Right engine low oil pressure!!! They left it running and did a quick circuit and landed safely. We found both engine oil pressure transmitters burnt out and had to be replaced, but no other damage.
The TAT maint centre (who looked after the aircraft) told us that this was a known problem!! with the RR Tay engines.
 
andz
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Sat Oct 14, 2006 12:55 am

Quoting EMBQA (Reply 1):
Port and Starboard..? what are we, on a boat....????

No, just someone who knows the correct terms.

I was on an SAA 742 leaving FRA one night, we were just past gear up when there was a flash that lit up the aircraft inside together with a bang. The captain came on immediately and announced that we had been hit by lightning and would be continuing as all systems were normal. The rest of the flight was uneventful.
After Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says WTF...
 
Jerald01
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RE: How Serious Is A Lighning Strike?

Sat Oct 14, 2006 1:08 am

In a previous lifetime (i.e., 45 years or so back) two of my Air Force buddies (recip engine mechs) had to hop over to Maxwell AFB in Alabama to change out all of engines on one of our base's C-118's that had made a 4-engine-glider landing at that base (rust in the fuel tank plugged up the lines, causing a simultaneous shut-down of all engines at nearly the same time). After they got that done they were "asked" (uh, ordered) to "accompany" the acft to Travis AFB, CA., which they did.

After a somewhat eventful cross-country flight (i.e., two unscheduled stops enroute for maintenance), the acft, while on short final to Travis, was struck by lightning. It hit the nose radome and exited via one of the wing-tips, blowing a fist-sized hole in the latter along the way. All the acft lights were inop and all the nav and comm gear was fried. The engines coughed and sputtered all the way down to the runway, all of which which made for an "interesting" landing.

The plane was repaired enough that it could be ferried to Davis-Monthan AFB for "storage" (shredding), but, when the Commander asked for a volunteer crew to fly it there he got no takers!

Can't remember the name that was painted on the nose... something like "Lucky Seven" or some such as I recall......
"There may be old pilots, and there may be bold pilots, but there are darn few green cows"

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