Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

No near miss: Emirates debunks rumour that lightning struck A380

Despite the footage the Emirates aircraft was a safe distance from New Zealand lightning storm

An Emirates aircraft looked to have a near miss during a lightning storm in Christchurch, New Zealand this week, when a photo of the plane was posted on social media seemingly being struck.

But it turned out to be just an optical illusion.

At 3.30pm local time on Wednesday, November 20, a pilot from Garden City Helicopters at Christchurch Airport posted a picture on Facebook showing an Emirates aircraft on the tarmac with a lightning bolt in the sky behind it.

Daniel Currie from Garden City Helicopters captioned the image: "The view out our window onto the tarmac today! The Emirates plane waiting for the storm to pass."

In the picture, the lightning appears to be very close to the aircraft. However, this particular lightning storm happened far away from the plane and did not cause any alarm for passengers and crew.

"Emirates can confirm that our aircraft was not hit by lightning in Christchurch and we operated as normal," said a spokesperson for the airline.

Can lightning damage a plane?

Lightning regularly strikes aircraft but according to Skybrary, a knowledge database set up by the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, these strikes might be distressing to passengers but "significant physical damage to an aircraft is rare and the safety of an aircraft in flight is not usually affected."

Very often passengers will not even notice that lightning has hit the aircraft they are flying in. When heavier lightning bolts do strike, aircraft are designed with fortified wingtips and tails to evenly distribute charge from such strikes.

Very occasionally, lightning can strike a plane and cause minimal damage such as a hole in a tail fin or radome but pilots are trained to handle such situations.

Planes can almost always fly in thunderstorms and, according to Skyscanner, everything except the most severe weather is harmless to modern aircraft.

Giant hail in New Zealand

Christchurch has been experiencing unsettled weather and its meteorological service issued several weather warnings on Wednesday as lightning rained down across the island.

There were also reports of huge hail stones falling from the sky and a tornado sweeping across parts of the city.

Updated: November 21, 2019 07:48 PM

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