Why does an airplane get struck by lightning?
Most of the time, flying through a heavily charged flight path, is just fine. But, just the fact that the aircraft is there, tempts those pesky lightning bolts to pick a target. Actually, aircraft often initiate the strike because their presence enhances the ambient electric fields typical for thunderstorms and facilitates electrical breakdown through the air.
Most aircraft skins consist primarily of aluminum, which conducts electricity very well. By making sure that no gaps exist in this conductive path, the engineer can assure that most of the lightning current will remain on the exterior of the aircraft.
How often do airplanes get struck by lightning?
Even though lightning activity can vary by geographic location, its frequency is such that, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an aircraft is struck by lightning every 1,000 flight hours, the equivalent of one strike per aircraft per year.
It is interesting to note that lightning mostly strikes at near-freezing temperatures, during turbulence. Around 60 percent of all lightning strikes occur from March through July.
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