Saturday, July 19, 2008

Well Aviation Week has come to an end. Amy and I are going to an art exhibit this weekend where everything on display is made out of Red Bull cans. Doesn't that sound like fun? So now the last post of the week.

A couple of months ago I was flying, and my FO says, "Oh! This is the airplane I had the lightning strike in a couple of weeks ago." I asked what he was talking about, and he told me the story. The airplane was on course for a thunderstorm that was unavoidable (in Texas this happens often). When they got about half way through it, there was a deafening noise and a super bright light. After taking a moment to realize what had happened, they figured out that the airplane had been struck by lightning. During the strike the pilot's hand was thrown off of the metal control wheel and against the sidewall of the flight deck with such force that it hurt him a little.

The main electrical systems of the aircraft shut down. (There is a short delay on our aircraft where there is a warning for about eight seconds before the power actually shuts off.) So imagine the passengers' surprise when the cabin lights turn off and the emergency exit lights come on in flight. Within about 30 seconds, the pilots get the power turned back on; and the airplane seems to operate normally except that one of the exterior light circuits has a short and the screens on the flight deck are really distorted.

Once the airplane lands, the ground crew has a surprised look on their faces; and there is lots of pointing going on. Here is a photo of what they were looking at:

Yes, that's a hole - right in the nose of the airplane. (The nose of this airplane is composite - not metal.) There was also a hole in the tail (where the light was located). Anyway so now I know that a lightning strike in the airplane is a painless experience where some minor damage is possible.

We actually have one guy on our staff who flies for the Air Force on the Hurricane Hunter team. They fly inside hurricanes for like 7 hours at a time. He tells of flying through the eye of well-defined hurricanes where they can look up and see the stars at night. Now he has some stories.

Even though Aviation Week has come to an end, Amy and I are going to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in the fall. I will surely share some pictures. Have a great weekend!


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