Is it Dangerous to Fly Through a Thunderstorm?

Lightening stormSource

Millions of people fly every day, but even the most seasoned traveler gets a little nervous when flying in the face of a storm. What if they were to end up in the storm? What if the plane gets hit by lighting?  Will the pilot panic? Can the plane handle it? These are quite reasonable and rational fears and questions that we will answer in this article.

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First things first, if the plane is getting ready for take off and a thunderstorm forms over the airport, it is not going to clear the runway. Ground-stops occur because it is unsafe for mechanics to be near, under or working on aircraft while an electrical storm is taking place. Grounding of planes is just a precaution, one that is not done for fear of lighting, but rather because of the possibility of high wind shear from storm clouds. If an air traffic controller spots lightning, flights are delayed.

plane in stormSource

Taking off in good weather is not a guarantee that you will not run into a storm along the way. However, just as an experienced driver is used to dealing with the occasional rainstorm, so have pilots been trained to deal with bad weather, even thunderstorms. When you fly on a plane today, you should know that they have extremely accurate radars so they know when a storm looms, even in total darkness.

The traffic controllers on the ground have access to these as well, if it is possible the plane will be directed around the storm. When flying into an area that has several storms, a trained and experienced pilot will find a path in between them. Most storms are very clearly defined, so it is a simple matter to fly around one. This is why, the majority of the time your plane will be able to fly around or even over a storm instead of straight through it.



There are still times when a plane will have no option but to go through a storm, so what will happen if lightning was to hit a plane? Well if your plane does get hit by lightning, there are two things that could possibly happen. If it is a glancing blow, the lightning will harmlessly travel down the outside of your plane. If it is a direct hit, it will go straight through the plane. The lights may flicker, you may have a few bumps but 99% of the time it is perfectly fine. Though you may only feel a slight breeze on the ground; there can be some really strong winds in the midst of a thunderstorm, even larger planes can be a bit shaken.

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The smaller the aircraft, the more you will feel the turbulence. Since a large craft will have a stronger resistance, you will feel fewer of the bumps. When lightning and/or turbulence occur, the captain or an attendant will come over the intercom to make an announcement that you should return to your seat and buckle up Safeway you hit a low pressure area, you will feel it as a bump. These bumps will be felt more keenly in different areas of the plane.

The ones that experience the least turbulence are the seats in the middle nearest to the wings. The wings are the center of gravity for the craft and are less shaky. The next best choice are the ones in the front, with the worst being in the back. If you are seated in the back of the plane you will feel every single bump.


Stormy FlightSource

Flying near, and even through a storm is not as bad as you might fear. You may have a little turbulence, it can even get a little bumpy. However, since pilots tend to avoid storms, especially the bad ones you will never be flying through a truly hazardous storm. At your normal cruising altitude you will be flying above or around these storms,  which can be a pretty stunning sight!


Enjoy the View
Modern planes are impervious to storms. Thunderstorms are stunning sights, relax and take them in.