The Lightning Protection Devices Used for Aircraft

Lighting strikes are extremely common, often occurring around 100 times every second across the globe. Despite the possible worries of aircraft passengers, lightning poses minimal risk to the individuals aboard the vessel. Oftentimes, a strike may even occur during flight without any passengers noticing, and a typical aircraft will be struck multiple times a year on average. While lightning generally poses little risk to an aircraft, it is still important that ample protection is implemented to ensure that fuel tanks, sensitive electronics, and other aircraft parts are all kept isolated from strikes. To reduce the threat of lightning strikes, engineers utilize a number of common protective solutions and techniques.

There are many methods in which the forces of lighting can be mitigated, and one of the most important is through the design and construction of aircraft. Generally, most external surfaces and assemblies of an aircraft are constructed from metal, and the thickness of such materials ensures that strikes are well resisted. Beyond serving as basic protection, the metal skin also mitigates the amount of electromagnetic energy that may reach electrical wires, guaranteeing that levels are maintained at a safe volume to avoid damage.

As a second layer of defense, a metal mesh is implemented as a skin around the cabin and interior compartments. Acting as a Faraday cage, the metal mesh conducts electricity through the outside of the vessel to prevent any electromagnetic fields or voltage from reaching the interior. If there are specific areas that are more prone to strikes of lightning, there are a variety of methods that one may use to further protection. Generally, wire bundle shields, ground straps, wire mesh, expanded foils, aluminum flam spray coating, metallic picture frames, diverter strips, and embedded metallic wires are all commonly used to protect particularly sensitive components and surfaces. Similar to taller buildings on the ground, aircraft may also use a lighting rod in the form of various conductive components in order to divert current and protect surfaces.

While many aircraft have long been protected by their metallic construction and assemblies, numerous future aircraft designs are being made with the intent of taking advantage of carbon composite construction and carbon fiber materials. As compared to common aircraft metals such as aluminum, carbon composites boast a very advantageous strength-to-weight ratio and are more flexible in regard to designing assemblies. Despite the various advantages of composites, the fact that they are non-metallic materials means that lighting strikes are unable to be conducted as efficiently for the safety of the aircraft.

For such composite constructed aircraft, there are a few devices that may be used to further protection from strikes. These include the implementation of expanded metal foils, interwoven wire, conductive paints and coatings, and plated carbon fiber. Expanded metal foils can be sliced and stretched into patterns, allowing them to be fitted over diversely shaped surfaces. Interwoven wire fabric is also common, and it is often interwoven into the carbon fiber ply without adding significant weight to the assembly. Conductive paints and films are also often used for many aircraft applications as an additional layer to surfaces, though they should not be relied upon as the only form of protection. Plated fiber is similar to paints and films, and it allows more conductivity to be added to carbon fiber materials.

With ample protection from lightning, the risk of electrical damages caused by strikes can be minimized. At Limitless Aerospace, we operate as an online distributor of aircraft parts with over 2 billion new, used, and obsolete items readily available for purchase through our website today. Peruse our expansive listings at your leisure to find top quality fuel vapor sensor components, ground rod equipment, fuel tank parts, and much more. If there are particular items that you are interested in, we invite you to fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form as provided on our website. With your information, our team will quickly craft you a personalized quote for your comparisons. Start the part procurement process today and see why customers steadily rely on Limitless Aerospace for all their operational needs.


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October 5, 2021

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