Airplanes and Lightning


Some things just don’t mix. Oil and water. Orange juice and toothpaste. Forks and power outlets. Feet and LEGO’s.  Of all the bad combinations, one would think airplanes and lightning would be near the top. However, in this amazing age of technology, lightning poses very little threat to airplanes.  In fact, “It’s estimated that lightning strikes each plane in the U.S. commercial fleet about once a year without any serious consequences” (CNN).

According to William Voss, the president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, “Since the 1930s, it’s been clearly understood that aircraft will be subjected to lightning strikes, so they’re sort of designed to take it” (ibid). With modern technology and materials, today’s planes essentially act as an extension cord to the lightning. The lightning is channeled around the skin of the plane and then back out into the atmosphere through antenna-like devices. When lightning strikes a plane, the passengers usually don’t even realize it happened.

It’s hard to know just how much time, money, and research has gone into lightning protection for our aircraft. However, one thing is for certain —  airplanes need lightning protection. One strike without protection could be catastrophic.

A typical lightning flash is about 300 million Volts and about 30,000 Amps (most household outlets carry 120 Volts and 15 Amps). There is no doubt that lightning is powerful.  And yet, lightning is an effortless power for God!

As Jeremiah stated so eloquently, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, and brings out the wind from His storehouses” (10:12-13).

Job said it this way, “Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thundering of His pavilion?  Behold, He spreads His lightning about Him, and He covers the depths of the sea…He covers His hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark.  Its noise declares His presence…” (36:29-30, 32-33).

We serve an awesomely powerful God.  One who has created forces on this earth, like lightning, which are so powerful we need protection from them just to keep living!  No other is more deserving of our fear, honor, praise, and worship than the Lord.

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