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Old 06-12-2007, 12:52 PM
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digitalcraft digitalcraft is offline
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It has been decades since commercial airlines sustained any real damage from a lightning strike, even though statistically airliners experience an average of one to two strikes per year per plane. You would probably be hard-pressed to find an experienced pilot who hasn't experienced at least one or more strikes somewhere along the way.

Lightning strikes on aircraft occur when negatively charged electrons encounter positive charges from the surface of the plane, and when they do, ZAP!—lightning occurs. Airplanes create charges in both directions and act as a conduit for lightning.

There are stringent FAA requirements for lightning certification. Surge protectors and shielding are installed to protect avionics.

So what happens when lightning actually strikes the airplane? It's important to note that lightning has one mission in life and that is to find a path to the ground. It usually strikes an extremity like the nose or wingtip, and from there it passes harmlessly around the outside of the aircraft and exits off the back of the wings with the help of "static wicks."

Static wicks don't prevent lightning strikes but give the electrical charges an easy exit point. There are a minimum number of static wicks required to be on the airplane and if any are missing, they must be replaced before flight.

Hope that answers your question!
I dont if I'll make home tonight
But I know I can swim
under the Tahitian moon
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