What happens when lightning strikes an airplane

Topic 26

Can planes and missiles be struck by lightning?

It does happen that lightning strikes planes in the air or on the ground. This usually has no consequences because the metal aircraft hull protects the passengers according to Faraday's principle, just like in a car - or in a railroad car or in the gondola of a cable car. In general, the unsteady flying weather (turbulence) associated with thunderstorms is much more dangerous than lightning.
However, lightning strikes can damage the electronic instruments on board. Perhaps this is the cause of some unexplained airplane crashes in the past. Especially when you consider that the point of impact of the lightning strike as a result of the rapid flight movement can migrate over the aircraft skin and thus reach zones that cannot be reached by the lightning directly.
After being struck by lightning, small holes or cracks were found in the wings or fuselage of aircraft, similar to those found in motor vehicle bodies. When leaving a vehicle struck by lightning - no danger because the residual electrical charge on the outer shell is very low.
The fact that lightning can also hit rockets was shown when the American moonship Apollo 12 was launched. The weather conditions for this space flight were extremely unfavorable at the moment of take-off, as dark thunderclouds hung in the sky. Nevertheless, the start was approved - probably so as not to question the entire company. Around 36 seconds later, the first lightning strike occurred, which temporarily disabled the power supply to the space capsule.
According to consistent observations, this atmospheric discharge should have taken place between the earth and the earth-disappearing lunar ship. The discharge had propagated from the ground in the direction of the rocket's fire tail. In all likelihood, the spaceship would have pushed into a thundercloud piled up with electrical charges. The rocket's gas jet formed an electrically conductive gas column that was almost suitable for causing the discharge between the earth and the thundercloud.
The second impact, about 52 seconds after take-off, caused the control systems to fail briefly. There are many indications that the lunar rocket, which is more than 100 meters long, bridged two opposing polarity accumulations in the storm clouds and thus caused a cloud-to-cloud flash.
It is very fortunate that both lightning strikes did not lead to serious consequences.

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