What happens if lightning hits the plane?

A lightning strike on an airplane during a storm, illustrating potential hazards of flying in severe weather conditions.

As you read this sentence, there are 11-12 thousand passenger airliners in the air all over the world. Their number reaches 200 thousand per day. Of course, not all of them are in favorable conditions. Somewhere, the pilots are trapped by dense clouds, somewhere high turbulence, and somewhere a thunderstorm. What happens if lightning strikes the plane during the flight? Should passengers be afraid of this?

Что будет, если в самолет попадет молния?

Looking ahead, let’s say that passengers in the cabin of an airliner may not even realize that the plane was struck by lightning. The crew in the cockpit will most likely hear a muffled bang. That is, the impact of atmospheric electricity on the plane will not have any consequences. Of course, if the equipment is fully functional. But how do engineers manage to achieve this level of security?

Что будет, если в самолет попадет молния?

The ideal way to ensure the safety of an aircraft in a thunderstorm is to fly around it. But this is not always the case. An airplane caught in a thunderstorm cloud literally attracts lightning. This is due to static electricity accumulating on its skin due to friction with the air, which contains dust particles.

According to statistics, for every 2500-3000 flight hours, there is at least one lightning strike. This means that thousands of planes find themselves in this situation every year. At the same time, we do not see news about disasters related to this phenomenon.

The greatest danger to airliners is a spark that has arisen in the fuel system due to a lightning strike. But there are other risks associated with atmospheric electricity. For example, lightning can cause a strong electromagnetic field, which will affect people and the electronics of an airliner. Screw blades or turbine blades may melt.

Что будет, если в самолет попадет молния?

Lightning rods

Ways to protect against lightning

The main way to protect an airplane from lightning is to remove static charge. It allows you to significantly reduce the probability of lightning and its strength. For this purpose, lightning rods are provided on the edges of the wings. In addition, aircraft are coated with a special paint, which includes antistatic components. Even modern aircraft have special equipment that generates a reverse polarity charge. It helps to compensate for static electricity.

It is known for sure that lightning most often hits the nose of the aircraft. Engineers design this part of the liner so that the charge runs through the skin without harming vital systems. Once upon a time, aircraft fuselages were made of light alloys, and this helped solve the problem.

But today composite materials are increasingly used, which accumulate static charges well. Therefore, we have to look for non-standard solutions and develop new technologies. For example, metal fibers are added to the composition of the composite. The engines, cabin and fuel tanks are protected by grids made of metals with good conductivity. Copper is ideal for these purposes.

Что будет, если в самолет попадет молния?

These are also lightning protection elements

The tanks, emptying as fuel was consumed, presented a serious problem. The empty volume collected explosive fuel vapors. This problem has also been solved. In modern aircraft, the void is filled with safe inert gases that do not burn. So you don’t have to be afraid of lightning during the flight. Much more dangerous for the aircraft is the strong turbulence that occurs when it gets into dense clouds.


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