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How Dangerous Is Lightning For A Pilot When Flying?

by John White |

Lightning Strikes From A Thunderstorm When we think about a thunderstorm, one of the first things we think about is lightning. Researching this post I grabbed my Jeppesen Guided Flight Discovery Instrument Commercial textbook to see what Jeppesen has to say about a thunderstorm. This may not surprise you, but it did me - did you know that the tires of your automobile do NOT act as an insulator to lightning and that makes you safe in your car? On page 9-17 of the Jeppesen book it says:
Safe From Lightning? Some bolts of lightning are powerful enough to light a small city. With this much electricity hitting one spot, it is easy to see why lightning is so dangerous. One common myth is that the rubber tires of a car act as an insulator to lightning. Although rubber is considered an electrical insulator, it is ineffective against a 300,000 volt per foot electrical charge that can jump two miles through air. In fact, when lightning strikes a car, it usually destroys the tires as it punches its way through them on the way to the ground. Since it is nearly impossible to insulate against an electrical charge as powerful as lightning, the key to effective lightning protection is to conduct the electricity along a path in which it can do no harm. An enclosed metal vehicle can provide effective protection, because the metal frame conducts electricity around, rather than letting it go through, the occupants. Motorcycles and convertibles provide no such protection. Metal aircraft also protect their occupants from lightning. As you will learn in the next section, the primary aviation hazards from thunderstorms are not from lightning, but from icing and turbulence.
A friend of mine flying at 43,000 feet shot this video which shows lightning inside a thunderstorm as seen from above: Quite a show, isn't it? If you want to learn more order your very own copy of the Jeppesen GFD Instrument Commercial textbook and improve your flying skills. Please share "How Dangerous Is Lightning For A Pilot When Flying?" with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks!           Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7+ ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!

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