ELECTRICAL BEHAVIOR OF AN AIRPLANE IN A THUNDERSTORM
LITTLE (ARTHUR D) INC CAMBRIDGE MA
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By processes as yet poorly understood, extensive regions of both positive and negative electric charge form in large convective clouds. These clouds are the primary source of the lightning discharges that sometimes strike airplanes. Airplanes in flight can develop electrical charges on their surface as the result of a variety of processes but the maximum amount of charge that they can carry is limited by point discharge and is negligibly small compared to the charge transferred by a lightning discharge. Although the amounts of net or induced charge on the airplane are small compared to the amount of charge in the thundercloud, these charges can locally cause an appreciable intensification of the electric field of a thunderstorm. While some lightning discharges to airplanes may be attributable to chance alone, there are reasons to believe that the electric charges on the airplane may either attract or initiate lightning discharges. It does not appear to be feasible to produce a significant reduction in the probability of an airplane receiving a lightning discharge by any technique for controlling the charge on the airplane. The most promising solution to the hazards posed by lightning is to design airplanes so that they are capable of receiving discharges without damage.