What Happens When Lightning Strikes an Airplane? Probabilities and Real-Life Cases

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Many people feel anxious when encountering lightning while on an airplane. But do planes actually get struck by lightning? And what happens if they do? In this article, we’ll delve into the relationship between airplanes and lightning, exploring the probabilities and real-life cases to provide a comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon.

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The Probability of an Airplane Being Struck by Lightning

Did you know that the chances of an airplane being struck by lightning are surprisingly high? According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), commercial aircraft are struck by lightning an average of one or two times per year. However, this number represents an average across all aircraft, and the probability of a specific plane being struck is much lower. It is estimated that an individual aircraft has about a 0.1% chance of being struck by lightning in a given year.

What Happens When Lightning Strikes an Airplane?

Modern airplanes are designed with lightning strikes in mind. The aircraft’s body is made of highly conductive aluminum alloy, which allows the electric current from a lightning strike to safely pass through. Additionally, critical electronic components are protected by electromagnetic shielding, making them less susceptible to lightning damage.

When an airplane is struck by lightning, passengers may experience a loud noise, bright light, and slight vibrations. However, there is rarely any significant damage to the aircraft. Pilots strive to avoid thunderstorms and lightning-prone areas, but even if a strike occurs, planes can usually continue flying safely.

Real-Life Cases of Airplanes Struck by Lightning

In 2019, a video captured the moment an Airbus A320 was struck by lightning as it landed at Russia’s Vladivostok Airport. The striking footage shows the aircraft being directly hit, but it managed to land safely without any significant damage.

Another incident occurred in 2020 when a Boeing 777 was struck by lightning just before landing at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The plane also escaped without any notable damage and landed safely.

Conclusion

The probability of an individual airplane being struck by lightning is around 0.1% per year. Modern aircraft are designed to withstand lightning strikes, with conductive materials and protective shielding for electronic components. When a plane is struck, passengers may experience noise, light, and slight vibrations, but significant damage is rare. Pilots aim to avoid thunderstorms, but even if a strike occurs, planes can typically continue flying safely. The lightning protection technology in airplanes plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of air travel.

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