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What happens to an airplane when hit by lightning?


marked as duplicate by fooot, Simon, Farhan, voretaq7 Jan 6 '15 at 21:57

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  • $\begingroup$ @Simon Umm not quite true - unclosed duplicates do. It can be argued that some dupes that redirect automatically are good for the site (more to search for). That said `@Pedro, your question is so similar, you could have found it in the search, and it doesn't add any value to the site - it fractures the answers. $\endgroup$ – Tim Jan 6 '15 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ See also aviation.stackexchange.com/a/3833/1289 $\endgroup$ – RedGrittyBrick Jan 7 '15 at 11:05

Since the aircraft is not grounded, the physics are the same as with a bird which lands on a high-voltage line. The aircraft's skin will be charged, but very little current will be induced in internal parts in the process. The outer skin will act as a Faraday cage and protect the inner parts from the electric field.

This is greatly helped by a metal structure. Composite aircraft parts need a copper mesh over all external surfaces to give them sufficient electrical conductivity. The terminals of that mesh must be connected to the metal parts of the structure to make sure that all parts will have the same electrical potential in case of lightning strike.

However, the ionized air caused by lightning will leave burn marks on the surface, and an inspection of the affected part and the electrical equipment is advisable.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Federico Sep 9 at 5:15

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