Is lightening a risk for modern aircraft?

PARIS, June 2, 2009 (AFP) – Passenger jets are hit by lightning every 1,000 hours — on average twice a year — and experts say the risk from the bolts of electricity is growing. But technical experts, astounded like everyone else by the disappearance of an Air France jet in the Atlantic with the feared loss of 228 lives, say lightning alone could not have caused it to crash into the ocean.

Air France has said the A300-200 jet was probably hit by lightning as it passed through a violent storm on the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on Monday.

But the airline’s chief executive Pierre-Henry Gourgeon said it suffered multiple technical failures before falling off radar screens.

“A succession of a dozen technical messages” sent by the jet showed that “several electrical systems had broken down” which caused a “totally unprecedented situation in the plane,” said Gourgeon.

“It is probable that it was shortly after these messages that the impact in the Atlantic came,” he added.

Nearly every commercial pilot has a tale of coming through a lightning storm. The French national office for aerospace study and research (ONERA) says that on average a plane is hit by