Lightning strikes & airplanes


Airplanes frequently are hit by lightning as are automobiles with no real danger to the passengers. An aircraft's aluminum hull is extremely conductive; therefore, an electrically charged cloud will produce a charge on the outer surface of any airplane in the area of the storm. Difference in potential exists between the cloud and the plane. This results in a discharge of electric current between them. Also, there is a potential difference between the airplane and the tarmac; therefore, the lightning discharges through the airplane into the ground. Passengers are safe because the hull forms a "Faraday cage," a hollow shell made of conducting material. As long as passengers are inside the lane, not on its surface, they are safe. Similarly, we are not electrocuted when lightning strikes our car, provided it's composed of metal not fiberglass. If it's not a cloth convertible roof and, again, you do not touch the outside surface, you are safe. Rubber tires do not protect you; it's the Faraday cage.

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