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No. 32: Mar-Apr 1984

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Ball Lightning Splits And Recombines Inside Soviet Airliner

An Ilyushin-18 took off from Sochi, on the Black Sea, in fair weather. Soon after takeoff thunderclouds were noted about 60 miles away.

"Suddenly, at the height of 1,200 yards, a fireball about four inches in diameter appeared on the fuselage in front of the crew's cockpit. It disappeared with a deafening noise, but reemerged several seconds later in the passenger's lounge, after piercing in an uncanny way through the air-tight metal wall. The fireball slowly flew about the heads of the stunned passengers. In the tail section of the airliner it divided into two glowing crescents which then joined together again and left the plane almost noiselessly."

Upon landing back at Sochi, holes were discovered in the fuselage fore and aft.

(Anonymous; "Tass Says Lightning Ball Entered Soviet Airliner," Associated Press Dispatch, Moscow, January 13, 1984. Cr. M.A. Lohr)

Comment. Several examples of ball lightning dividing are on record in the Catalog of Anomalies, but recombination is an extremely rare event. See Chapter GLB in our Catalog: Lightning, Auroras. To order, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #32, MAR-APR 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss