x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 December 2017

Lightning strike on Emirates A380 during flight caught on video

A photographer has managed to capture the moment a bolt of lightning struck an Emirates flight as it landed in London.

Lightning strike on Emirates plane during flight caught on video.
Lightning strike on Emirates plane during flight caught on video.
DUBAI // A photographer managed to capture the moment a bolt of lightning struck an Emirates flight as it landed in London.

Chris Dawson, 37, from Putney, south-west London, had his camera and video recorder handy when the A380 landed at Heathrow Airport.

"I saw a storm coming and I thought there could be lightning," he said. "I wasn't expecting it to hit a plane but I just got lucky."

Mr Dawson's house is directly under the flight path to Heathrow airport and he recorded the video from his balcony on April 23, around 7.30pm, with a Canon DSLR camera. "I was lucky there wasn't any rain," he said.

The plane, which is designed to carry 555 passengers, landed without incident.

An Emirates spokesperson said it had received no reports of an aircraft being struck by lightning on that day.

"In any event, whichever aircraft it was, lightning strikes are not uncommon," the spokesperson said. "All our aircraft are designed and are certified to be able to withstand a lightning strike."

A bolt of lightning can transmit 30,000 amps of electricity, heating a target up to a temperature of 30,000C - about three times the heat of the surface of the Sun.

However the shell of the aircraft acts as a Faraday cage, carrying the electric charge through the body and then expelling it at an output point, without affecting the passengers inside.

"The way aircraft are designed is that all metallic parts are connected to each other, with different static ports for the electricity to be drained out of the aircraft," said Karim Hijazi, the managing director of Air Synapsis, a Dubai-based aviation safety consultancy. "The lightning basically just passes through it, often with no damages.

"That's the best case scenario but there can be some complications, like metallic meltdown or electronic damages," he added. "It really depends on a lot of factors, including where the lightning hits the aircraft.

"A badly designed or poorly maintained aircraft would be more exposed. But even the most modern aircraft are able to sustain some damages."

He said that to his best knowledge a plane had not crashed as a result of lightning strike.

Mr Hijazi started his career as a military pilot and said that although he had been in many storms a lightning strike often passes

without being noticed.

"In the middle of a thunderstorm, you have flashes every minute. It's not easy to tell whether the lightning is close to you or further away.

"The only time I noticed we'd been hit was when I looked out and saw blue flash every time a raindrop fell on the wing," he said.

"After a while, the leading edge of the wing was glowing with a blue light like a gas cooker. In terms of the strike itself, we didn't

notice it."

mcroucher@thenational.ae