Browse Publications Technical Papers 2001-01-2887
2001-09-11

UK Military Aircraft Lightning Strike Reporting Over the Last 50 Years 2001-01-2887

It is a requirement for the British RAF that all lightning strikes are reported and for those since 1972 there is a strike database which is maintained by GAO Consultancy on behalf of QuietiQ (previously DERA) UK (The GAOC Database) This database currently contains 1065 entries which have details of height, weather conditions, attitude, damage, effect on crew etc. In addition to the database there are also two RAE Reports of a further 630 strikes which were notified between 1944 & 1957. Some of those make fascinating reading from a purely historical point but by transferring the information available in these archive records into a format compatible with the database reports it has been possible to look for similarities and differences between, for example, strike rates per month, height bands, strikes to different aircraft classifications in differing scenarios and resulting damage.
The aircraft covered in the databases range from the largest transport vehicles through fighters to a small number of helicopters and finally a single unmanned target aircraft, which was of particular interest to the writer as the strike occurred not 10 miles from her home.
Possibly one of the most significant factors to come out of the data is the percentage of strikes that occur in ‘non expected lighting condition’ that is in clear air, no cloud or precipitation. Examination of these records shows that lightning does not always occur where or when expected as another item of particular interest is the number of strikes that have occurred at a height and temperature where cloud to ground lightning would not be expected (above 20,000 ft and at temperatures of −52°) and the fact that every incident at those heights have caused damage.
This paper will present trends, examine damage, look for evidence of changed strike rates or possible changing weather patterns. There are other, bigger databases but none where the information contained spans over half a century.

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