New Technology to Defend Planes Against Lightning Strikes

Lightning strikes plane, injures two members of the flight crew but aircraft wasn't damaged.
1:56 | 06/20/14

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Transcript for New Technology to Defend Planes Against Lightning Strikes
To a lightning strike, so close to a delta jet on the ground. Some personnel were injured. This evening a surprising number. It's believed every plane in America is struck by lightning at least once a year. Passengers have no idea in most cases. David Kerley on the close calls and the Armour protecting you. Reporter: It's a striking sight. A jetliner hit in air by lightning -- surviving. That lightning strike in ft. Lauderdale yesterday injured two workers but the aircraft wasn't damaged. No major damage to these aircraft. How's that possible? In a Seattle lab behind a thick door -- these Boeing engineers are making lightning. That is a million volts of electricity zapping a model of a Boeing 777. Rob Steinle is Boeing's lightning guy. We want to see where lightning hits the airplane. Why do jetliners survive a strike? Because the aircraft's skin acts like a channel. Think of it as an extension cord. That million votes of electricity flows over the skin and off the aircraft without ever penetrating the inside of the aircraft. Reporter: How do they know it won't penetrate? Watch the probe strike a piece of aluminum skin with 200,000 amps. Boeing wants to make sure it's thick enough. To take a big blast. You see that it's scratched the aluminum but didn't actually go through? That is indicative of like a once in a lifetime level that a plane would occur. We hit it pretty hard. Reporter: It isn't often you get a chance to charge up a massive electric machine, so when offered -- Okay. So here's my chance to make lightning. Whoa! That's amazing! So when I fly through the next thunderstorm and there's lightning, you're telling me don't worry? Don't worry. You'll be fine. Better in the tube than on the golf course. Reporter: Reassurance tested in the lab that these spectacular jolts are survivable. David Kerley, ABC news, Seattle.

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