What happens when an airplane gets struck by lightning?

  • What happens when an airplane gets struck by lightning? Lnafziger

    I know that they certify airplanes for lightning strikes (at least some of them anyway), but does it cause any damage to the airplane or to the electronics? Are there any required inspections if an airplanes is struck by lightning?

    Airplane being struck by lightning

  • The vast majority of aircraft require an inspection, from small Cessna singles to Boeing airliners. Usually, they require at the very least:

    • A visual inspection of the aircraft for damage, particularly the nose, tail section and wingtips. Most of the time, the damage is easily visible as "burn" marks or erosion of parts of the skin.
    • A check of the communication/navigation systems, both visually and functional testing
    • A check of all avionics, including GPS systems
    • Propeller should be removed and inspected by an A/P for damage
    • Engine should be inspected by a procedure similar to the following:

      1. Remove the engine from the aircraft and disassemble it.
      2. Inspect the engine for arcing and heat damage to the crankshaft, main bearings, counterweights, camshaft lobes, bearings, gear teeth and any other parts applicable to your engine. Any magnetic parts should be degaussed following the specific procedure in your manual.
      3. Measure each other part to make sure it is within tolerances for your engine.
      4. Reassemble, then install the engine.
    • (depends on company) Send in an lightning strike report to your manufacturer

    • Confirmation of compass being within 10 degrees of another (stricter for transport low visibility operations) after completion of repair/inspection works


  • The one time that I was struck by lightning for sure (there with a couple of other times I wondered if I had) was in a Cessna 310. Everything was working after the strike. However, an inspection of the airplane afterward showed that the very aft end of the right tip tank had melted and then resolidified.

    As I understand it, a lightning charge typically "flows" around the outside of a metal aircraft.

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