I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Lightning doesn’t crash planes

A C-130 failed to arrive in Iloilo Monday evening; it was flying out of Davao and went out of contact after receiving course instructions, soon after take off. ABSCBN reports that fishermen claimed to have seen an aircraft plunging into Talikud Island in Samal, Davao. They said it crashed after it was hit by lightning.

Hit by lightning?

That’s what struck (pun not entirely unintended) me. I remember reading somewhere that jets get struck by lightning all the time. AND don’t crash.

Apparently planes have three main defenses against lightning: First, there’s the skin of the plane. Whether its made out of aluminum or some composite material, that skin is hyper conductive. When lightning strikes, the charge just skates along the surface and quickly discharges back into the air. Kinda like water sliding off a duck’s feathers.

Second, there’s built in surge protectors. Even if a plane is able to shrug off lightning, the strike can still cause surges in the plane’s electrical systems. Surges, if they get really bad, can fry instrumentation and generally make the plane uncontrollable. But, like I said, it’s an industry standard for planes to have surge protectors.

And third, jet fuel doesn’t produce too much vapor. In the last confirmed lightning-caused-crash, what the lightning did was to ignite jet fuel vapor, causing an explosion. Dead bird. But that was 40 years ago, and now additives are used to minimize jet fuel vapor so that lightning can explode it.

But then again, I suppose lightning can still strike a modern aircraft and crash it if the aircraft in question was shoddily maintained or if the pilot freaked out. So, if it is true that the C-130 crashed; and if the Air Force starts quoting those fishermen for the cause of the crash, we shouldn’t be too quick to believe ’em.


Filed under: science, , ,

16 Responses

  1. cvj says:

    What if the pilots were struck by lightning?

  2. rom says:

    cvj:unless they were flying in an open cockpit, i don’t see how the lightning could have missed an entire plane’s worth of metal skin to target a relatively teeny plexiglass window. that’s be a little too ‘final destination’ uncle. LOL!

  3. cvj says:

    I was thinking of a scenario where the cockpit window was left open. Perhaps one of the pilots had his cellphone exposed.

  4. rom says:

    cvj: well, freak accidents do happen …

  5. while your facts might apply to modern aircraft, we have to remember that this is the Phil. Air Force we’re talking about – the same Phil. Air Force known for patching its aircraft up with pieces of crashed planes and helicopters – so we don’t really have any “modern aircraft”. I wouldn’t be surprised if a report revealed that the plane was full of fuel vapor, or the plane was reconfigured to run on LPG, or if the cockpit had no window. -_-

    we should give our armed forces better equipment.

  6. kalakian says:

    It could be the reason why the pilots and crews have failed to communicate back to the tower if they were hit by the lightning, that is if one of the windows were open.

    About Ninoy, hmm nah, he’s never been a hero. He was actually too stupid to come back home even though he was aware about the possibility of assassination threat by his political enemies. And in the fact that, he is a communist. That’s no wonder too why his wife let go of their imprisoned comrades.

    Yup we need federalism. Anyway, federalism or not, the muslim rebels are still opt to have their own state. So why not just give them a federal state?

  7. mark says:

    I just have to post.

    Well, lightning is a rare cause of airplane crashes. Very rare. However, it can happen. Lightning can burn holes in important things and cause damage that later causes a crash.

    But it’s really rare.

    Main reason? Unless you are a path to ground, electricity is harmless to you. You can hang from a high voltage power line if you can avoid touching the ground. ( or coming close enough to arc to ground)



  8. UP n student says:

    iOne has to weigh the logical thought — we should give our armed forces better equipment. with the reality of economics. It costs over 20-billion phil-pesos (over half-a-billion US Dollars) for 4 brand-new C130J’s.

    Norway just penned a contract with Lockheed for four latest-model C130J’s to replace the C130’s they have been operating since 1969.

  9. jcampb says:

    Since airplanes are made of metal, they act as a Faraday cage. It’s the same reason why inside your car with the doors closed is the safest place in a lightning storm.

    The electricity travels around the metal exterior, and in the case of a plane (or car) keeps arcing to the ground.

    I would be very interested to know how, specifically, lightning could make an airplane crash.

  10. nytsmasher76 says:

    Tell me everything you could all say about lightning not crashing planes…

    I would not EVER want to have my self caught in ANY plane during a lightning strike…

    “I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens” – Woody Allen c”,

  11. rey says:

    I think it is just the same gut feeling that this is some of the works of the rougue elements. See the article about the plane.

  12. […] :Does Planes Really Crash When Hit by Lightnings Tags: milf, philippines, war in […]

  13. rom says:

    Welcome, all, to the smoking room!

    jcampb: lightning has been known to ignite jet fuel vapor, but with additives that diminish the production of vapor, this problem has mostly been solved. I can think of no other way lightning can down a plane – well, except for freak accidents maybe.

  14. bisena says:

    I don’t want to see it seriously. I just wanna be a calm person with that kind of story

  15. UP n student says:

    In my honest opinion, that SHOWBIZ-CENTRAL entry speaks of irresponsibility and/or suggests a writer who is not fully aware of journalism rules.

    Too bad the writer does not know yet the power of a question-mark.


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