Airplanes vs lightning

Thread Starter

Autobike

Joined Feb 23, 2018
90
hello :) sorry if i'm posting this in a wrong section.
i recently saw on TV that a small airplane was struck by lightning and there was a reasonable damage occurred there. luckily it had landed safely.
but to happen that kind of damage, shouldn't there be a path to the earth to complete the circuit? since the airplane was flying in the mid-air, apparently there was no path to the earth. just wonder how it happened. thank you :)
 
Last edited:

Marley

Joined Apr 4, 2016
369
Most lightning is cloud to cloud or within a cloud. Even if it's cloud to ground all the aircraft has to do is get in the way.
Passenger planes are designed to cope with lightning. In fact, if you look at the wing carefully you will often see little discharge electrodes on the trailing edge. Think it's more of a problem with very new "composite" aircraft but conventional metal ones are OK.
Must be fairly scary to be in a plane when it gets struck! I think pilots try to avoid typical thunder clouds if at all possible.
 

Thread Starter

Autobike

Joined Feb 23, 2018
90
Most lightning is cloud to cloud or within a cloud. Even if it's cloud to ground all the aircraft has to do is get in the way.
Passenger planes are designed to cope with lightning. In fact, if you look at the wing carefully you will often see little discharge electrodes on the trailing edge. Think it's more of a problem with very new "composite" aircraft but conventional metal ones are OK.
Must be fairly scary to be in a plane when it gets struck! I think pilots try to avoid typical thunder clouds if at all possible.
thank you. this is the same incident which i saw on TV. damage is big.
yea you are correct. they said that pilots avoid the storms as possible as they can. only solution is making a good entry and exit point to the lightning bolt. they say still the digital displays and things tempt to flicker. well it's scary in my opinion. thx again :)


Most lightning flashes are from cloud to cloud. The airplane could have been in the path of the discharge.
yea got it. thx a lot :)

hi auto,
Look at these images, you can see the path is thru the plane and continues down to ground
E
https://www.google.com/search?q=air...ECA0QCg&biw=1512&bih=909#imgrc=E0SnxUk0Of7FSM:
ops. thats scary. according to the that article there are three types of lightning
Intracloud ( IC )
Cloud to Cloud ( CC )
Cloud to Ground ( CG )

plane becomes a conductor then :oops: which completes the circuit when a cloud or clouds have a huge potential difference in charge.
thx a lot :)
 

Thread Starter

Autobike

Joined Feb 23, 2018
90
found some pics of the trailing edge. i think this is what @Marley was talking about. does anyone know the actual name of these sharp rods. thank you :)

 

Glenn Holland

Joined Dec 26, 2014
705
Most lightning is cloud to cloud or within a cloud. Even if it's cloud to ground all the aircraft has to do is get in the way.
Passenger planes are designed to cope with lightning. In fact, if you look at the wing carefully you will often see little discharge electrodes on the trailing edge. Think it's more of a problem with very new "composite" aircraft but conventional metal ones are OK.
Must be fairly scary to be in a plane when it gets struck! I think pilots try to avoid typical thunder clouds if at all possible.
Although pilots avoid close proximity to thunderstorms, there is still a risk of lightning strikes further away. So called "Anvil Lightning" (from the top of a cumulonimbus cloud) can strike many miles away from the storm itself. I recall the rule for closing swimming pools when there's any risk of lightning and the sky has to be clear of any storm clouds for at least 10 miles.
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
10,506
found some pics of the trailing edge. i think this is what @Marley was talking about. does anyone know the actual name of these sharp rods. thank you :)
The terms, "static wicks" or "static discharge wicks" are commonly used. Also, mostly high speed aircraft have electrical bonding between movable surfaces and the main airframe.

Air aircraft flying in such weather does not need to be hit actually by a bolt of lightning to have its instruments and electrical system affected.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
5,236
Those static discharge probes are typically sharp points. Electrons can more easily escape from a sharp point than from a blunt point. The purpose of those static discharge probes are for discharging static that is otherwise generated by dust particles in the atmosphere. Upon landing, aircraft can have a lot of static charge built up. Those probes reduce the static but do not completely discharge the static. If you've ever watched a plane being refueled, the fuel truck (if no under ground fuel piping is available) is first grounded to earth. Then the plane is grounded to earth. Then the fuel cart (with underground piping) is grounded to earth. THEN the fuel cart (or truck) is grounded to the aircraft. THEN the fuel hose is grounded to the wing of the aircraft. THEN the fuel door is opened and the fuel hose can be connected. One spark can set off a catastrophic fire. All because of the airplane bumping into dust particles in the air. There are other sources of static generation as well, such as charging that can occur simply by proximity to a thunder storm. Even if the plane isn't hit.
 

Thread Starter

Autobike

Joined Feb 23, 2018
90
Although pilots avoid close proximity to thunderstorms, there is still a risk of lightning strikes further away. So called "Anvil Lightning" (from the top of a cumulonimbus cloud) can strike many miles away from the storm itself. I recall the rule for closing swimming pools when there's any risk of lightning and the sky has to be clear of any storm clouds for at least 10 miles.
thank you. learnt something new :)

The terms, "static wicks" or "static discharge wicks" are commonly used. Also, mostly high speed aircraft have electrical bonding between movable surfaces and the main airframe.

Air aircraft flying in such weather does not need to be hit actually by a bolt of lightning to have its instruments and electrical system affected.
thx a lot. i just googled it and found many examples :)
 

Thread Starter

Autobike

Joined Feb 23, 2018
90
Those static discharge probes are typically sharp points. Electrons can more easily escape from a sharp point than from a blunt point. The purpose of those static discharge probes are for discharging static that is otherwise generated by dust particles in the atmosphere. Upon landing, aircraft can have a lot of static charge built up. Those probes reduce the static but do not completely discharge the static. If you've ever watched a plane being refueled, the fuel truck (if no under ground fuel piping is available) is first grounded to earth. Then the plane is grounded to earth. Then the fuel cart (with underground piping) is grounded to earth. THEN the fuel cart (or truck) is grounded to the aircraft. THEN the fuel hose is grounded to the wing of the aircraft. THEN the fuel door is opened and the fuel hose can be connected. One spark can set off a catastrophic fire. All because of the airplane bumping into dust particles in the air. There are other sources of static generation as well, such as charging that can occur simply by proximity to a thunder storm. Even if the plane isn't hit.
thx a lot. never knew these things :) recently i got to know that they ground the prime mover which transports gasoline before refilling the underground tanks of the gas stations. is it due to the same risk as the airplane refueling? thx again.
 

Thread Starter

Autobike

Joined Feb 23, 2018
90
found a video where the static wicks are in action. in this video at 2:44 you can see the lightning strike.



in every incident the lightning bolt enters from the front part of the airplane and then exits from the trailing edge where static wicks are located. may be it's due to the shape of the front part which attracts the lightning
 

crutschow

Joined Mar 14, 2008
25,656
since the airplane was flying in the mid-air, apparently there was no path to the earth.
If the airplane gets in the path of a lightning strike, the plane is a much lower resistance than the air, so the strike will preferentially go through the plane on its way to wherever it's going.
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
2,789
Standard practice for any tank or hopper truck carrying flammables even grain is to attach a ground lead first before loading or unloading. Used to see gasoline tankers dragging a grounding chain long ago and I always wondered what good it really did hitting the road and creating sparks.
 

Thread Starter

Autobike

Joined Feb 23, 2018
90
If the airplane gets in the path of a lightning strike, the plane is a much lower resistance than the air, so the strike will preferentially go through the plane on its way to wherever it's going.
thank you. yea it's a good conductor :)

Standard practice for any tank or hopper truck carrying flammables even grain is to attach a ground lead first before loading or unloading. Used to see gasoline tankers dragging a grounding chain long ago and I always wondered what good it really did hitting the road and creating sparks.
thank you :) yea i've seen that too.

LPG carriers and tanker vessels in general have a ground connection to be implemented prior starting loading or discharging.
thank you :)
 
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