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Blam! Lightning bolt hits packed passenger jet

January 16, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The electrifying moment a packed passenger plane is struck in mid-air by a bolt of lightning has been captured on video.

Mystery surrounds the identity of the airline involved. London’s Daily Mirror said the plane had left Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport in heavy rain and ominous grey skies just before nightfall on 2 January 2017.

The paper said the lightning strike had occurred moments after takeoff for a two-hour 20 minutes flight to Sochi.

One site identified the aircraft as a B747 but it looks more like a twin-engined plane. Two separate lightning flashes can be seen on the 45-second clip; one directly striking the plane, the other seemingly coming near it.

Lightning strikes on planes are not uncommon and aircraft are designed to withstand them. An article in the Scientific American estimated that, on average, each aircraft in the US commercial fleet is struck lightly by lightning more than once each year.

“In fact, aircraft often trigger lightning when flying through a heavily charged region of a cloud,” wrote Edward J. Rupke, senior engineer at Lightning Technologies of Massachusetts. He added that the aluminium skin around aircraft fuel tanks “must be thick enough to withstand a burn through”.

“The last confirmed commercial plane crash in the US directly attributed to lightning occurred in 1967, when lightning caused a catastrophic fuel tank explosion,” Rupke wrote.

More reassuringly, he added: “Since then, much has been learned about how lightning can affect airplanes. As a result, protection techniques have improved. Today, airplanes receive a rigorous set of lightning certification tests to verify the safety of their designs.”

Modern aircraft like the B787 Dreamliner and A350 are made largely of composite materials instead of aluminium, but conducting material is embedded in the composite to handle lightning strike.

Written by Peter Needham

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