Pat Shingleton: In Flight Lightning
When lightning strikes planes, the charges glide from nose to tail or from wing tip to wing tip before discharging. Today, airliners have on-board radar to track storms and wind shear. These technological advances prevent lightning from disrupting an aircraft. As noted in a previous column, over Elkton, Maryland, on December 8, 1963, Pan Am Flight 214 was in final approach to Philadelphia International Airport at 8:51 P.M. Vectoring through thunderstorms, mayday messages were received in the control tower at 8:59 P.M. Moments later the National Airlines pilot reported the plane in flames. Witnesses reported a strong lightning flash, followed by a glowing ball at the end of the flash that caused the unusual accident killing 81 passengers.