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Extreme St. Elmo's Fire

Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:51 pm

Having been a professional aviator of some sort for 20+ years, saw a first the other night.

At night, high level, in the clouds but no thunderstorms near, Boeing 737, only the nav lights and strobes on, we had the blue glow on the wiper ends and the occasional static discharge sparks across the windscreens. No surprises there.

Looking at the panel, I was suddenly aware of a luminescence out front, rather like when you have the lights on and suddenly hit cloud, but my next thoughts were:

a) wrong light pattern, b) not nearly as bright, and c) seemed to be radiating forward from the radome.

Planting my chin on top of the coaming to look down the nose, I could see what I would describe as several thick finger or sausage-shaped plasma plumes (my phrase…), pale blue/white, fanning out from the radome forward, ranging from 3 to 6 feet in length, bright enough to make me look up from the panel. For a few seconds they fluctuated in brightness and size, then disappeared.

Neither of us had seen anything like it before.

Anyone come across this before, or can point me to some info on the web apart from wiki?

Thanks - Regards - musang
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RE: Extreme St. Elmo's Fire

Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:41 pm

I've seen this once before, exactly as you described. It was in cruise in IMC while navigating around an extensive line of CBs in the Bay of Bengal. Quite an impressive sight!
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RE: Extreme St. Elmo's Fire

Wed Nov 06, 2013 4:52 pm

Plenty of times. All types of aircraft. Temperature and humidity play big factors.
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RE: Extreme St. Elmo's Fire

Thu Nov 07, 2013 4:03 pm

The most interesting I've ever seen was in a 319 just about 45 mins north of MEX deviating around some very dry cells with about 20 minutes of "Standard" St. Almo's Fire then all of a sudden as we got into a bit thicker cloud, the entire cloud ahead of us lit up for a few meters with electricity and what can only be described as tentacles dancing around the entire forward section of the aircraft. After about 5 seconds all was normal again. It was eerie.
Keep the shinny side up!
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RE: Extreme St. Elmo's Fire

Thu Nov 07, 2013 5:21 pm

Quoting musang (Thread starter):
Anyone come across this before,

I'd be curious to know whether your radar is of the dish type instead of the planar array of modern on-board radars.
In the former type, the emitting power is immense and in wet, electrically charged atmosphere, one could as a matter of fact see the beam ...
What you described, I've seen only once and it was because the static wick linking the movable radome had been broken and lots of static discharged through the radome fasteners, but not from the tip of the radome.
Must have been a sight !
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