- Flight from Amsterdam to Birmingham was hit by lightning on Friday
- Passengers heard a ‘massive bang’ – but the plane landed as normal
- Woman photographing the storm caught a picture of one bolt striking
- The aircraft’s captain only told passengers afterwards what had happened
A bright flash of light and booming noises in a cramped seat thousands of feet in the air would be enough to put off even the most hardened fliers.
But passengers landing at Birmingham airport on Friday afternoon were led by example as their captain coolly steered them through three lightning blasts and left it until afterwards to calmly explain what happened.
Passengers spoke of a ‘massive bang’ as one of the bolts struck the body of the KLM service from Amsterdam, but the blasts had no effect on the landing, which proceeded as normal to touch down at 4.30pm.
And after the plane, a Boeing 737, had touched down on the runway, the captain confirmed to his passengers that the service had been hit, saying simply: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed we were hit by lightning.’
Tony Everitt, 51, was one of 174 passengers on board the flight, from which ominous ‘dark skies’ could be seen just before the first bolt struck.
The businessman, who was returning from a conference, said: ‘It was incredible – there was one massive bang. Only moments before, I’d noticed the dark skies and told a passenger sitting next to me that I was surprised there was no thunder and lightning.
‘After the bang, my initial thought was the engine had blown-up. Surprisingly, it wasn’t frightening, it was exciting.
‘You are waiting for something else to happen, then you realise nothing has gone wrong.’
The picture of the plane, caught up in the centre of several branches of a lightning bolt, was taken by Tracy Meakin White, 42, who was watching the storm.
She said: ‘I didn’t even see the plane at first, I was just clicking on my phone and then afterwards I saw the aircraft.
‘I think it is a once in a lifetime picture, I doubt I will see anything like that again, I am not a photographer, it was just a stroke of luck I got the shot.’
A statement from KLM said: ‘Occasionally aircraft is hit multiple times by lightning. All pilots and air crew are trained to deal with this.’
A spokesman for Birmingham Airport said: ‘All aircraft landed safely without incident on Friday afternoon.’
RIDERS ON THE STORM: HOW PLANES ARE HIT BY LIGHTNING AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR… AND PASSENGERS HARDLY EVEN NOTICE
Although it may sound a terrifying prospect, commercial aircraft around the world are bombarded with bolts of lightning every single day.
According to experts, the in an average year any given airliner can expect to be struck at least once on its travels.
Indeed, as the fuselage of most planes is made of conductive aluminium, their presence in storm clouds, where huge amounts of static electricity gather, can actually trigger the discharges.
But due to strict regulations, all passenger planes must be built with electrical shielding which protects the inside of the plane from the effects of lightning bolts.
Those on board often fail to notice that the plane has been hit at all, or experience nothing more than a quick flash.
It is estimated that aircraft shielding is strong enough to withstand voltages ten times the amount of a typical bolt, and no planes have been brought down by lightning since 1967.
The worst which can usually be expected from a lightning blast is a visible scorch mark. Occasionally flights which are struck early in their journey are diverted as a safety precaution.