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Home > Thunderstorms > What was this LOUD BOOM and FLASH outside the plane during the thunderstorm?
What was this LOUD BOOM and FLASH outside the plane during the thunderstorm?
Weather - Thunderstorms
Monday, 14 May 2007 08:47


Hi Capt Lim,

I am trying to overcome my fear of flying, especially concerning turbulence. I read your Q & A and they seem to make sense.

My question is - on a recent flight from Las Vegas to Cleveland (Continental Flight 380 on April 26), about 1/2 hour prior to landing in CLE (thunderstorms that night) - I believe we were somewhere between DTW and CLE - we were seated in Emergency Row (A & B seats) - across from us and out the window, there was a LOUD BOOM and a FLASH of a Fire Ball... everyone around gave out a yell!

I thought the engine blew up! I already had the death grip on my husband due to the turbulence. He had his eyes closed and saw the flash... the Captain NEVER came on the intercom and inform us as to what happened or put us at ease.

My husband said I was as white as a ghost... I was waiting for the plane to go down... What could this have been?

Our neighbor, an electrician, mentioned something about electrical energy during a storm... please advise your thoughts... they would be greatly appreciated... here is the kicker - I work for Continental Airlines, a ticket agent in CLE.

Thank you and God Bless

Elaine M. Farkas

Hi Elaine,


The LOUD BOOM and FLASH were indications of lightning strikes. I have written about this topic numerous times.


Anyway, lightning has not caused any commercial airplane to crash in the USA in more than 45 years since. The last accident of lightning strikes on airplane occurred on December 8, 1962 ? it involved a Pan American Boeing 707 during a holding pattern over Elkton in the USA. The lightning caused a spark that ignited fuel vapor in a tank, causing an explosion that brought the plane down and killing all 81 persons on board.

This led to rules requiring that airplanes to have built-in systems that ensure that a spark will not ignite fuel or fuel vapors in tanks or fuel lines.

In the 1980s, NASA did a research and came out with a finding showing that lighting could in fact induce small electrical currents that could damage electronic systems. This led to regulations that require aircraft electrical and electronic systems, as well as fuel tanks and lines, to have built-in lightning protection.

So do lightning pose a hazard to you in the cabin? No. I think the only danger you could face would be if you happen to board or get off the plane at an airport where you have to walk down steps and across the ramp into the terminal building.

The Captain was probably unaware of the BOOM and FLASH as it happened at the back of the plane and hence did not communicate with the passengers or put them at ease.

Wish you a safe flight in the future.

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