LIGHTNING AND AIRCRAFT

The author reviews the principal causes of lightning and discusses why aircrafts may be involved with it, what to expect from it, and finally how pilots can help researchers learn more about lightning to design even better protection from its effects in the future. Although much is still not understood about the lightning formation process, it can be concluded that aircrafts are usually struck by flashes that would have occurred anyway, but the aircraft being conductive causes the current to divert towards the aircraft rather than continue on in another direction. It is impossible, however, to predict when or where a lightning strike will occur. Careful study of weather reports and use of radar can help in avoiding areas of precipitation. Laboratory studies have been made of the ways a lightning flash might produce a source of ignition within an aircraft fuel tank. Simulated lightning flashes have also been shown to be capable of igniting vapors at fuel vent outlets under certain air flow conditions. Other indirect effects are produced by lightning strikes such as flight and engine malfunctioning. The most hazardous effects a pilot is likely to receive from a strike is temporary blindness from the flash or a mild electric shock when the strike occurs. The author concludes that two trends in aircraft design may affect the level of accidents attributable to lighting. The first is the increasing use of miniaturized, solid-state components, and secondly the increasing use of nonmetallic materials in place of aluminum in skins and structures.

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  • Corporate Authors:

    Air Line Pilots Association

    1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC  USA  20036
  • Authors:
    • Plumer, J A
  • Publication Date: 1978-2

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00172454
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 26 1978 12:00AM