Aircraft Lightning Protection and Inspections

Due to the overwhelming commonality of such storms, most aircraft will find themselves struck by a bolt of lightning one to four times a year on average. Despite this, lightning rarely does any damage to most modern aircraft, and passengers are typically unaware of when such incidents happen. This is due to the fact that modern aircraft are designed to have ample protection from lightning strikes, ensuring that they avoid hazardous conditions and costly delays.

Due to the nature of lightning, most aircraft strikes will occur between an altitude of 5,000 to 15,000 feet, that of which is when the aircraft is climbing or descending. Additionally, the most hit areas of the aircraft include various outer structures such as the wing tips, nose, and rudder. While a single bolt of lightning may contain upwards of 1 million volts, the damage to an aircraft will depend on protective elements, the attachment and exit locations, and the strike duration.

To protect external structures, most legacy aircraft are specifically designed with metals that are thick enough to resist a standard strike. While the metal can guard the interior of the aircraft, it also ensures that electromagnetic energy does not seep into the electrical system. As the electrical system is crucial for standard flight operations, it will often be designed with strike resistance in mind. Nevertheless, electrical fuel valves, power feeders, generators, and electrical distribution systems are all more sensitive to high intensity strikes. To better safeguard these systems and components, engineers will implement wire bundle shields, ground straps, wire mesh, diverter strips, and other various solutions.

Despite the numerous protective elements of modern aircraft, lightning strikes of significant power can still cause undesirable damage that must be treated as soon as possible. Whenever a strike occurs, the pilot is charged with determining whether or not the aircraft can continue flying towards its original destination, or if it needs to be diverted to the nearest airport for inspections and maintenance.

During an inspection for lightning damage, technicians will look for the structural entrance and exit points of the bolt. If the fuselage is constructed from a metal such as aluminum, lightning damage will show in the form of burn marks, pits, and holes. As damage may be centralized in a single location or spread out, technicians must be thorough during their checks. Additionally, the entire fuselage should be looked over as crew members may not have even known that a certain strike occurred in the first place. For aircraft that are made from composites, damage will most often present itself as damaged fibers, burnt paint, or composite layer loss.

Alongside inspections, the aircraft should not be operated until it is amply tested for functionality and safety. If any parts are heavily damaged or non-functional, they should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible. If you find yourself in need of replacement aircraft parts as a result of a lightning strike, take advantage of the time and cost savings provided by NSN Fulfillment.

NSN Fulfillment is a premier purchasing platform for aircraft components of all types, and we can help you secure all the aircraft lightning protection products that you require with ease. With AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation, we stand by the quality of our inventory. Explore our vast set of offerings at your leisure, and our team of industry experts is always ready to assist customers throughout the purchasing process as needed. To kickstart your procurement, fill out and submit an RFQ form through our website for items you are interested in, and a dedicated account manager will reach out to you in 15 minutes or less to provide a customized quote for your comparisons.


July 14, 2023

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