Lightning never strikes twice

Today I was flying out of Manchester heading back to Aberdeen, there were numerous large Towering Cumulous (storm clouds) around the area and they looked rather uninviting.  I was pilot monitoring and the captain was pilot flying, we could already hear those who had taken off ahead of us asking for radar vectors around the storm clouds and I turned the radar on as we lined up, watching it like a hawk.

We were cleared to take off and started our roll down the runway, the airport was actually dry at this point but it was only going to be a matter of minutes before the whole place was soaked.

As we climbed out of Manchester passing 2000ft the we flew into the first cloud shown on the radar as green and it was hammering it down.  The SID was going to have us turn straight back into a zone which was showing a lot of red on my radar. 

Radar images give a feedback as to how dense the moisture content is within the clouds, green is ok, amber is try and avoid and red is definitely avoid

 

Radar images give a feedback as to how dense the moisture content is within the clouds, green is ok, amber is try and avoid and red is definitely avoid

 

 

I requested a heading that would keep us clear of the amber and yellow as best as possible and the Air Traffic Controller allowed us to use that heading, as we climbed up to 5000ft we were handed over to Scottish Control and told to further climb to FL80 but make a turn to the right.  This had us heading towards the edge of some amber/red on the radar and we asked for a different heading, we were told a new heading would be available in one minute.  We continued the climb and completed our after take off checks and the ride started to get more and more rough, the aircraft started to buck and jump about and the rain started to get harder and harder against the windscreen as we approached the amber section.

I made another request to turn, but the controller said that we needed to be past FL80 before she could turn us before giving us a new clearance of FL120.  The wind was not in our favour at all and the thunderstorm clouds started to drift into our track and we passed into the amber zone, the rain really was pelting the screen now and started to turn into hailstone making an ever louder noise on the aircraft.  At the same time, the radar now decided that the original zones of red had moved (one of the limits of radar is that it cannot see what lurks behind every storm cloud) and we were suddenly faced with red zones a bit too close for comfort.  I made a further request to turn but were again denied the turn and then the hail started to make an almighty racket on the aircraft flight deck and I started to have a horrid feeling like the windscreen was going to cave in on me.  It was at this point that there was a large flash and a loud cracking noise, I knew we had been struck by lightning and immediately reported to ATC and was finally granted a turn away from the cell, however for a couple of seconds after the lightning struck I had a sort of dazzled haze to my vision, at first I thought there was smoke in the cockpit but it quickly dissipated.  We rattled through the drills and checked there was no obvious damage to the aircraft or systems, everything was ok and we chatted to the cabin crew who had heard the noise and told them we were continuing to Aberdeen.

When we landed at Aberdeen it was quite easy to spot the entrance hole of the lightning as I had seen the rough area where we were struck (around the area where the captains left arm is) however there would also be at least one exit hole somewhere and that would be down to the engineers to find and check over before the aircraft would be allowed to fly again. 

Lightning entry point

Quite an experience on my second week on the line!

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~ by globalste on July 6, 2012.

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