What happens when lightning strikes a plane?

Lightning strikes on aircraft are probably more common than you think, but they’re not dangerous. They usually strike one part of the plane and the current travels around the outside of the aircraft and exits into the atmosphere again at another exterior point. The aircraft essentially acts as what is known as a Faraday’s Cage.

But why do they get hit at all if they’re not connected to the ground?

Electric current likes to take the path of least resistance and given that it travels through metal with less resistance than air, it will happily make part of its journey around the outside of an aircraft and then on into the atmosphere.

Can it damage an aircraft?

While the point at which the lightning makes contact with the plane can experience some minor burn marks this is usually as severe as any damage is likely to be seen. 

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