Lightning Captured Hitting Airbus Landing at Heathrow Airport

Posted on May 12, 2011

Photographer Chris Dawson captured footage of an Emirates Airbus A380 being hit by lightning as it was preparing for landing at London's Heathrow Airport. The plane landed without any damage. The Daily Mail's shock headline reads, "Electrifying: The terrifying moment a jet was struck by lightning on approach to Heathrow."

It is a great picture and it looks scary, but lightning hitting planes is not uncommon. The Scientific American has an article here about what happens when lightning hits an airplane. The article says it is estimated that each airplane in the U.S. commercial fleet is struck by lightning at least once each year. Lightning protection is engineered into each aircraft. The aircraft skin contains aluminum - or another metal - that is a good conductor of electricity and keeps lightning from causing fire or damaging important equipment. The plane's fuel tanks require extra protection because a tiny spark could cause a fire and the loss of an engine. Microbursts or downbursts causing strong unexpected downward winds is much more problematic for aircraft than lightning.