Lightning Strikes on Helicopters - Effects, Detection and Avoidance 1999-01-2398
Lightning strikes to aircraft have been a threat for many years. Intensified research programs for studying strikes to fixed wing aircraft have increased the knowledge and decreased the dangers of catastrophic effects on these types of aircraft. However, less research has been performed on lightning strikes to helicopters.
Almost every winter some North Sea helicopters are hit by lightning. Some of these strikes cause major damage to rotor blades and other parts of the helicopters, indicating that the design and certification standards for lightning protection is not good enough. Further, the atmospheric conditions at some of the North Sea strikes indicate that the strikes are triggered by the helicopter. Dedicated research programs are required to establish the relationship between atmospheric conditions and triggered lightnings by helicopters.
In the mean time manufacturers must revise their design standard to improve the helicopter damage tolerance. The operators should develop operational procedures for possible reduction of the probability of being struck by lightning, and meteorological authorities should establish ground based lightning strike forecast systems which can give pilots preflight warning of lightning strike probability. Finally, the technology is available today to develop inflight lightning detection and avoidance systems, and the industry should initiate such developments.