We have several questions here about what happens to an aircraft when it gets struck by lightning (e.g. this question), and at least one answer from a former pilot who knows he was struck once and thinks he was struck other times. How frequently do aircraft get struck by lightning?

Additional commentary on how do you know you've been struck would be appreciated, but I'll make that a separate question if it's more appropriate.


2 Answers 2


It is estimated that on average, each airplane in the U.S. commercial fleet is struck lightly by lightning more than once each year.

Edward J. Rupke, via Scientific American.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that on average, lightning hits each airliner in U.S. service once a year.

Washington Post

It looks like commercial airliners get struck about once a year. I was also able to find an FAA source, but it doesn't look like it's the original source.


Lightning strikes airplanes commonly, and for modern airplanes, it is not a big deal. Although, to put a definite number is not realistic, as it is not analogues to how many miles a car runs with a full tank.

On average, it is estimated that lightning strikes an airplane once every 1000 hours of flight time.

Although, as mentioned:

The frequency of lightning strikes that an airplane experiences is affected by several factors, including the geographic area where the airplane operates and how often the airplane passes through takeoff and landing altitudes, which is where lightning activity is most prevalent.

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    $\begingroup$ Every 1000 hours of what? Somewhere in the world, a plane is struck every 1000 hours? Each plane is struck every 1000 hours? Each plane is struck every 1000 hours of flight time? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 20:29

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