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No. 91: Jan-Feb 1994

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Lightning Stalled Aircraft

After reading the case of lightning stalling an automobile in SF#90, J.S. Denn submitted the following account taken from a NASA publication.

July 9, 1945. Enroute from Maine to the Santa Marie Islands. As related by First Officer N.A. Pierson:

"We had just taken off from Presque Isle, Maine, and had been in cruise power for 50 minutes, when a large thunderhead cumulus was observed directly on course. Lightning could be seen around the edges and inside the thunderhead. All cockpit lights were on and the instrument spotlight was full on, with the door open. I had just finished setting the power and fuel flows for each engine. As the ship approached the thunder-head, there was a noticeable drop in horsepower and the airplane lost from 180 mph airspeed to 168 mph, and continued to lose airspeed due to power loss as we approached the thunderhead...A few seconds before the lightning bolt hit the airplane all four engines were silent and the propellers were windmilling. Simultaneous with the flash of lightning, the engines surged with the original power...The Captain and I discussed the reason for all four engines cutting simultaneously prior to the lightning flash and could not explain it, except for the possibility of a magnetic potential around the cumulus affecting the primary or secondary circuits of all eight magnetos at the same time."

(Fisher, Franklin A., and Plumer, J. Anderson; "Lightning Protection of Aircraft," NASA Reference Publication 1008, October 1977. Cr. J.S. Denn)

From Science Frontiers #91, JAN-FEB 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987