Lightning Strikes Twice

Lightning never strikes the same place twice. So they say. Science has since proven that it does, but I say it doesn’t…simply because after a lightning strike the same place isn’t there anymore!

It is fascinating what photography has allowed us to learn. A horse is momentarily airborne when it runs, lightning actually travels up and down the same path many times, and most people can’t take good pictures even with all the automatic settings.

So lightning does strike the same place repeatedly.

I caught this bolt after a storm at the local airport and was fascinated to see what looked like a fire that started at the impact point. Supposedly there is more heat in a lightning bolt than is contained in the sun although I can’t imagine holding the thermometer for that science experiment.

I wonder if old Ben Franklin would have sent that kite up if he had seen this picture?

We do our best to avoid this stuff when flying, nevertheless, most pilots have been zapped a couple times in their careers, especially flying down south. Other than having the radios knocked off once I have not experienced anything life changing.

One of the benefits of modern aviation is the advances in avionics. Even the low end radios have the ability to help detect and avoid hazards. This shot came from a Garmin handheld GPS with weather data. All the lightning bolts may not be striking twice but they sure are covering the area well!

This is typical weather for summertime in Florida, and since the activity is mostly found over the land heading out to sea will often bypass the nastiness.

Sometimes though, you just have to forge ahead and pick your way around the storms. The goal is to stay at least ten miles away from thunderstorms. Below is a shot of a flight to Haiti. Either we are going to dodge the storms and land, hold and wait for better weather, or go somewhere else. For non-aviators, the magenta line is the flight path to the blue dot which is the airport. Lightning bolts and red splotches should be self-explanatory!

The direct path to the airport will take us through some future unpleasantness, so the pilot has wisely begun a diversion in order to stay out of harms way. You’re welcome!

The nice thing about airborne radar and GPS weather overlays is that they add so much information to what the eyeballs are gathering. Is that hole you are thinking about flying through an escape hatch or a sucker hole? In the old days I guess you had to just go find out the hard way. Now when you look through the front office windows and see nothing but clouds, you have a lot more useful information to help turn hunches into fully advised decisions.

Kind of nice knowing if there is light at the end of the tunnel!

It’s quite hilarious to me that when I first started flying in 1981 a weather briefing required a local phone call. Then we got an 800 number we could call. Now I can instantly call up the weather in approved FAA format from my mobile phone. With pictures fer cryin’ out loud! And the ipad in the cockpit updates it for me as we fly. Used to be a pilot had to call over the radio for a weather update and try to form a mental picture of what was ahead. Now the mental picture isn’t necessary. Just look at the picture picture… or something like that.

Well we eventually made it to Haiti and I am not completely sure that things weren’t uglier on the ground than they were in that line of thunderstorms we went around. But that’s going to be another story.

SOS Oasis Haiti

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