How do airplanes stay safe from lightning?

By Dan Catchpole

A German photographer got a great image of a Boeing 777 being hit by lightning. (You can see the photo at his website.)

The airplane was reportedly safe.

Airplanes get hit by lightning fairly regularly. Modern airliners are built to safely fly through lightning, and most passengers likely don’t even notice when it occurs.

When lightning hits an airplane, it usually enters and exits through some extremity, including wingtips, the nose and vertical fin. Most planes are made from aluminum, which is extremely conductive. Airplanes with less-conductive composite material bodies, such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, have conductive material incorporated into the fuselage, explains Jack Williams for Air &Space Magazine.

Aircraft are designed to handle lightning strikes with measures including shielding and surge protectors.

A Scientific American article from 2006 further explains what happens when lightning hits an airplane.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.