Practical info: how an airliner can withstand lightning

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A Brussels Airlines plane was hit by lightning, Friday morning, while flying to Tel Aviv from Brussels. The aircraft had to turn around and land in Brussels and there were no injuries. When an airplane crosses a electric turbulence zoneit can be struck by lightning without compromising the flight safety.

First of all, the body of an aircraft is constructed from aluminum or reinforced composite materials. These materials are chosen for their conductive properties which allow the electric current generated by lightning to be dispersed through the structure of the aircraft, rather than letting it accumulate at a specific point. Thus, the current follows the path of least resistance and minimizes potential damage.

In addition, aircraft are equipped with a network of wiring and special protection circuits. The cables are twisted into pairs and wrapped in layers of insulation resistant to heat and electric current. In the event of a lightning strike, these cables will direct the current along the fuselage and to controlled discharge points, such as the metal fins located at the rear of the aircraft, called “wicks”.

The glazed surfaces of the cockpits and portholes are provided with a transparent conductive coating, thus preventing the formation of dangerous sparks in the event of impact. Aircraft tires are also designed to dissipate electricity, preventing any risk of ignition of the gases present around the aircraft.

In addition, the aircraft’s electronic systems, such as navigation and communication systems, are protected by electromagnetic firewalls to prevent electrical surges caused by lightning.

Pilots are trained to deal with such situations. In the event of lightning, they can apply specific procedures to minimize risk, such as maintaining a constant altitude and avoiding sudden maneuvers.

In summary, airliners’ lightning resistance relies on a combination of conductive materials, specialized wiring, protective coatings and proper flight procedures. These measures ensure the safety of passengers and crew even when an aircraft passes through areas of electrical turbulence.

John Walker Avatar