Lightning Strike Prompts Hawaiian Airlines Diversion

On a recent Sunday, Hawaiian Airlines Flight 5, scheduled to fly from Las Vegas to Honolulu, experienced a series of unexpected events. The flight initially departed, albeit 90 minutes behind schedule for reasons unknown. However, the delays were only the start of the flight’s troubles. After reportedly being struck by lightning, the A330-200 widebody jetliner made a swift return to Las Vegas, touching down just 21 minutes after takeoff, as reported by the flight tracking website Flightaware.

Hawaiian Airlines confirmed the lightning strike incident to local Las Vegas news outlets, acknowledging that their flight had indeed been struck by lightning. The flight was carrying 289 passengers and crew members on the trans-Pacific journey.

Following the lightning strike, Flight 5 resumed its operations after undergoing mandatory aircraft inspections. During the delay, passengers were provided with meals and accommodations. Subsequently, many of them continued their travels on various other Hawaiian Airlines’ flights on the subsequent Monday and Tuesday.

The incident involving the lightning strike on Hawaiian Airlines Flight 5 occurred shortly after takeoff, a time when such events are more likely to happen. Typically, lightning strikes occur when an aircraft is flying through clouds, although it was not confirmed whether this was the case during this particular flight.

How often do flights to Hawaii get struck by lightning? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), lightning strikes on commercial passenger planes are relatively rare, averaging one or two occurrences per year. Aircraft are designed and constructed with conductive paths to safely absorb lightning strikes and channel the electrical currents. In fact, airplanes often trigger lightning strikes because their presence enhances the electric fields commonly found in thunderstorms, making it easier for electrical discharges to occur through the air.

Following a lightning strike incident, a mandatory inspection to check for damage is required, a process that can be both costly and inconvenient, as the passengers on Flight 5 and Hawaiian Airlines experienced. The NOAA notes that there have not been any commercial transport airplane crashes caused by lightning in many decades, highlighting the effectiveness of safety measures in place to handle such situations.

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