Sunday, 15 May 2011

Lightning strikes

Normally 'lightning strikes' at Heathrow airport have a drastic effect.  The workers go on strike, the planes stop flying and thousands of people are stranded and kept in ignorance of their expected departure time.  But not this time!

On 23rd April this year, one of the huge new Airbus 380 planes was struck by lightning on its final approach to land at Heathrow.  Lightning strikes on planes are neither unusual nor surprising, and the large commercial planes are designed to be unaffected.  The metal body conducts the current safely around the passengers who might even have been unaware of the event.  This type of metallic enclosure is known as a 'Faraday cage' - physics is everywhere!

Of the very few plane accidents 'caused' by lightning, all but a handful have been tiny single-engined planes that have been unlucky (or silly) enough to be close to a thunder storm.

The thing that really is surprising is that an amateur cameraman, Chris Dawson, was lucky enough to be in the right place to catch this spectacular event.    I have included two screen shots above and embedded the Youtube movie below. Watch it and be amazed!

(Replaced the video clip 31/7/11 as the previous embed code had stopped working. By Nov 2012 the replacement video had gone altogether from Youtube, but another video of the same event can be seen via CBS news, here.)

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