Flying in thunderstorms

Can you fly during a thunderstorm? Is flying during a thunderstorm dangerous? Such questions often arise when passengers have to take off during a heavy thunderstorm or when light flashes surround them up in the air.

wing of plane in clouds and dark sky

Can you fly during a thunderstorm?

Flying during lightning is not dangerous. Almost all commercial planes are hit by lightning, one or two times a year on average. The pilot and passengers often do not even realize when this happens as the lightning cannot ‘strike’, as the plane is not in touch with the earth and the power cannot be transmitted to the ground. Thunder and lightning can cause damage to the plane. Small punctures or tiny holes can arise on the outside of the plane. Now don’t panic! The plane is basically a cage that is protected by several layers, and we are only talking about the outer layer. Furthermore, the lightning is stuck in the outer layer of metal and cannot be transferred to the inside. It can happen that a GPS- or communications antenna is hit by lightning. Not to worry, as a plane has several of those located on different locations on the aircraft. Flying during a thunderstorm is not dangerous, but airlines prevent this at most as the costs of repair can be high after a good thunderstorm.

What happens when lightning strikes the plane?

When lightning strikes the plane this almost always happens on protruding parts of the plane such as the tail, wings and nose. After it hits, the electric charge exits the plane on the far other side such as the tail or nose of the plane. Aluminum and copper are used to conduct the electricity smoothly. Pilots try to avoid every kind of damage by lightning and therefore rarely fly through a thunderstorm.

Is lightning dangerous for airplanes?

Lightning is not dangerous to airplanes in the sky, but it is a totally different scenario for the staff working at ground services. The people working on the gas trucks, baggage handlers and catering employees are much more at risk. A ‘ground handling stop’ is given during a thunderstorm as a matter of safety. This can cause a delay or cancellation to your flight. The staff is allowed to resume work when the thunderstorm has passed and everything is save again.

Flight cancelled by lightning

If your flight is cancelled by lightning this usually is caused by weather conditions that co-exist with the thunderstorm, like storms and heavy rain or hail. The Air Traffic Control of the airport has to reduce flights as some runways may need to be closed due to the weather. Pilots are challenged with reduced sight during a thunderstorm and they have to create new flight routes and adjust altitudes as a result of thunderstorm. When your flight is cancelled by lightning you are unfortunately not entitled to compensation. Lightning and thunderstorms are considered extraordinary circumstances.

Are you unsure of the reason for your flight cancellation? EUclaim has the answers!

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