Lightning Strikes Twice: Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 Endures Two Lightning Strikes During Flight

February 14th, 2023
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Lightning Strikes Twice: Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 Endures Two Lightning Strikes During Flight

On January 7th, 2023, a Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 flying from Fort Lauderdale to Cleveland encountered a severe thunderstorm. As the plane was passing through the storm, it was struck by lightning not once, but twice.

Despite the jarring experience, the plane and its passengers made it safely to their destination with no reported injuries. So, what happens when a plane is struck by lightning, and how does it affect the aircraft and its passengers?

How does lightning affect a plane?

Lightning is an electrical discharge that occurs when positive and negative charges within a cloud or between a cloud and the ground become imbalanced. When this happens, a bolt of electricity is released, which can reach temperatures of up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit and carry millions of volts of electricity.

While planes are designed to withstand lightning strikes, they are not immune to the effects. The metal skin of the plane acts as a conductor, allowing the electrical current to flow through the aircraft and potentially damaging its systems.

How do planes prepare for lightning strikes?

To prepare for lightning strikes, planes are equipped with lightning protection systems. These systems are designed to safely dissipate the electrical current and protect the aircraft’s systems and passengers.

The first line of defense is the plane’s exterior. The skin of the aircraft is made of aluminum, which is an excellent conductor of electricity. This allows the electrical current to flow through the skin of the plane and into the ground without damaging the aircraft.

In addition to the exterior, planes are also equipped with electrical bonding wires and surge protectors. These components help to evenly distribute the electrical current throughout the aircraft and prevent any damage to the plane’s systems.

What happens to passengers during a lightning strike?

While a lightning strike can be a frightening experience for passengers, the plane’s systems and safety measures are designed to protect them.

During a lightning strike, passengers may see a bright flash and hear a loud noise, but the plane’s systems should absorb the electrical current and prevent it from reaching the passengers. In most cases, passengers will not even feel the effects of the lightning strike.

In conclusion

While it is rare for a plane to be struck by lightning, it is not uncommon. Modern planes are designed to withstand lightning strikes and protect their passengers, and incidents like the one involving the Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 are a testament to the safety measures in place.

Despite the initial shock and disturbance, the passengers on this flight were able to continue their journey safely to their destination thanks to the design and precautions taken by the airline and aircraft manufacturer.