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Plane turns back after being hit by lightning

March 24, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A plane dumped fuel and turned back after a bolt of lightning slammed into it yesterday.

Virgin Atlantic’s flight VS65 from London Gatwick to Montego Bay in Jamaica, operated with a B747-400, was blasted by lightning shortly after take-off.

The Aviation Herald reported the plane was climbing out of Gatwick when the crew suspected a lightning strike and stopped the climb at 13,000 feet.

“The aircraft dumped fuel and returned to Gatwick for a safe landing on runway 26L about one hour after departure,” the aviation publication reported.

The airline said the aircraft returned to Gatwick due to suspected lightning strike.

A replacement B747-400 left Gatwick six hours later. The plane suspected to have been struck by lightning was still on the ground about seven hours after turning back.

The London Sun quoted a Virgin spokesperson saying: “Our flight VS65 today from London Gatwick to Montego Bay has returned to Gatwick as a precaution due to a suspected lightning strike, and has now landed.

“We are in the process of arranging an alternative aircraft to allow our customers to continue their journey later today, and we would like to thank them for their understanding.”

Aircraft are designed to withstand lightning strikes. 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”.

Written by Peter Needham

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