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Sun, Jun 20, 2010

Dreamliner Hit By Lightning During Test Flight

Not Planned, But The Airplane Was Not Significantly Damaged

One of Boeing's Dreamliner test airplanes was hit by a lightning strike during a test flight last month, but damage to the airplane was minor.


File Photo

The strike happened during a thunderstorm near Boeing Field. Bloomberg News reports that 787 program head Scott Francher said that the fuselage, wings, and systems all appeared to be undamaged.

The airplane's largely composite construction made lightning protection a particular challenge for Boeing's engineers. They embedded a copper mesh under the outer layer of skin that would disperse electrical current from lightning in much the same way that a traditional airliner's aluminum skin does. That mesh is strategically placed in the nose, wings, and tail, the areas most commonly struck by lightning during flight.

Lightning tests were always a part of the plan for the Dreamliner, but they were intended to be simulated on the ground. "We won't intentionally look for lightning in the sky," said Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne leach.

But chief project engineer Mike Delaney said the lightning strikes during test flights are reassuring to the public, and expected. "My personal wish is that these test airplanes get struck a lot," he said last year.

So far, that's one.

FMI: www.boeing.com

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