There are always risks when flying in an aircraft, risks that even the most experienced pilots can’t avoid. One of the scariest experiences that can occur while flying is getting struck by lightning. Lightning strikes on aircraft are more common than most people think however they have a very crafty way of surviving this natural phenomenon.
It has been reported that on average every commercial jet operating in the United States is struck by lightning at least once per year. Once is too much for an occurrence that could cause the deaths of thousands and destroy aircraft that cost upwards of $300 million. During a storm, an airplane is essentially a giant metal conductor so it is likely for that aircraft to be hit. Diverter strips are one way of avoiding the worst by absorbing the electricity and sending it away where it can’t do much harm to the plane.
“These strips can consist of solid metal bars or a series of closely spaced buttons of conductive material affixed to a plastic strip that is bonded adhesively to the radome. In many ways, diverter strips function like a lightning rod on a building.”
As the years go by the materials planes are made of have become less conductive to electricity and fuel tanks have less risk of explosions. Although there has not been an airliner destroyed by lighting since 1967, it is still better to take precautions in the event of the worst. The following clip shows are a variety of planes struck by lightning over the years.