Why aren’t planes affected by lightning if they are made of conductive metals?


Why aren’t planes affected by lightning if they are made of conductive metals?

In: 0

The metal skin of the plane makes it skim over the outer surface and not really penetrate to reach inner structures, mechanics and of course the people. That’s the same reason being in a car keeps you safe in a storm.

The reason why planes are not usually affected by lightning strikes is because they are designed to be able to conduct electricity in a way that is safe for the people inside. This means that the electricity from the lightning strike is able to pass through the metal exterior of the plane and into the ground without harming the people inside.

The metal exterior of the plane is also designed to be able to distribute the electrical charge of the lightning strike across the surface of the plane. This helps to prevent any one part of the plane from becoming too hot or too damaged.

So, even though planes are made of conductive materials, they are designed in a way that allows them to handle lightning strikes safely.

Mostly because they’re designed to handle lightning strikes.

But for one even though a plane is metal, it still has to be near an area where lightning would have struck anyway for the plane to provide a more conductive path and “attract” lighting. The plane itself doesn’t have enough mass to absorb the whole charge from a strike so on it’s own. Instead the strikes hit the plane on one side, then exit out the other to another cloud or to the ground.

As for protections the metal skin actually helps. Along with insulation, wire mesh, ground straps etc, the plane is designed so that current from a strike flows around the outside, away from electronics and passengers.

If the plane’s frame were less conductive the lighting would be more apt to flow through the interior.

I worked in aerospace manufacturing. The parts we worked on had something we referred to as lightning strike on the outside of the part. It sort of looked like a netting that was bonded to the unit. In the event of lightning hitting an aircraft, it spreads out instead of blowing a hole into the aircraft. I have seen units that had been struck and it was Minimal damage.

First of all, airplanes ARE affected by lightning:

However, as others have pointed out, the metal skin of the plane acts as a Faraday cage – the lightning bolt travels along outer surface, leaving people and things inside the plane (mostly) unharmed.

Pilots are VERY careful about avoiding thunderstorms. Not only is there a risk of lightning but a thundercloud can contain hail and strong up/down-drafts, both of which are dangerous in themselves. Best case is that passengers will be extremely uncomfortable, worst case is [severe damage to the aircraft](https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2018/06/05/scariest-flight-of-my-life-hail-smashes-nose-of-plane-that-flew-into-towering-storm/) with a risk of total loss of the aircraft and everyone on board.