Aircraft lightning strikes occur more frequently than you might think. It’s estimated that on average, commercial aircraft lightning strikes occur every 1,000 hours of flight time.
When a strike happens, lightning attaches itself to an extremity, such as the nose, leading edge of the wing, or wing-tip, travels along the exterior of the airplane, exits at another aircraft extremity, and continues on to hit the ground.
Up to 1 million volts can be delivered in a single lightning strike. The damage inflicted to the aircraft can vary depending on the duration of the lightning strike, the amount of lightning energy dissipated by the aircraft, and the lightning attachment and exit locations on the aircraft.
Today’s aircraft incorporate state-of-the-art composite materials, specialized computer systems, and components that are lighter in weight, and offer better reliability and longevity, but can also make them more susceptible to damage by lightning. These technological advances are prompting regular updates to strict lightning safety regulations, underscoring the priority placed on lightning protection equipment.
Aircraft manufacturers design and continually test their airplanes for lightning strike protection to keep passengers safe and protect sensitive equipment from damage.
A broad array of components and systems designed to withstand, direct, and dissipate the powerful discharge of a lightning strike are required for lightning protection. This equipment must be tested and verified by the manufacturers to meet the stringent lightning protection regulations.
Key lightning protection tests that should be conducted by manufacturers include:
Flame arrestor technology must be addressed carefully as well. Standards to be met include SFAR88 requirements with flame arrestor technology. Other flame arrestor tests include:
Parker Aerospace has recently introduced the unique-to-market, lightweight, high-pressure isolator (highly resistive union) that protects fuel system components from carrying the high current load of direct lightning strikes, yet allows safe relaxation of static charge developed through the refueling process.
When selecting lightning protection equipment and components, aircraft design engineers should consider partnering with a supplier that offers:
Parker Aerospace has been patenting, testing and manufacturing a comprehensive array of lightning-safe components and equipment for more than 70 years. Thousands of active and certified products have been designed to meet, and in many cases, exceed the stringent lightning safety requirements of the aircraft industry.
Parker’s technology is grounded on decades of proven on-wing time and durability through more than 100 million flight hours on most products. Parker’s engineered solutions include:
Parker Aerospace’s lightning test laboratory offers unique and specialized capabilities that ensure our products provide the ultimate lightning protection, certified to the most stringent commercial and military regulations for lightning, fire, and flammability. Engineers are active members of the SAE A-2 Lightning Safety Committee.
Now, watch this video to learn about Parker's extensive on-site testing capabilities for lightning and fire:
This blog was contributed by the Glen Kukla, engineering site leader, Parker Fluid Systems Division.