PICS: Pilot captures striking mid-air St Elmo's fire

2016-02-25 20:38 - Selene Brophy
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The concept of flight is amazing and every time we soar above the clouds, that endless vista outside the plane window can seem remarkably peaceful.

But much like oxygen and breathing go together, so too, do the skies and volatile weather situations. 

Like these amazing, if not scary, lightning images shared by SAA pilot Francois Honiball on Facebook. They were taken while flying over Madagascar on route to Hong Kong in an Airbus A340-300 ZS-SXB.

Honiball calls it the “most amazing St Elmo's Fire” as the plane was in close proximity to a huge thunderstorm.

And the images are truly beautiful.

(SAA pilot Francois Honiball)

(SAA pilot Francois Honiball)

(SAA pilot Francois Honiball)

“I was glad and very fortunate to have captured that beautiful moments,” Honiball said.

 But what are the dangers if any?

 Well, thankfully all planes are equipped with weather radars – a relatively small piece of hardware in comparison the actually size of the aircraft and found in the nose of the plane – but vital to overall flight safety.

 Aviation expert Vincent Lessing told Traveller24 this nifty device is used to avoid those bumpy, turbulent patches, allowing pilots to forewarn you, asking for all safety belts to be fastened.

But says Lessing, lightning strikes can happen even with the most sophisticated aircraft equipment.

“Lightning is un-predictable and very dangerous to an aircraft’s electrical and flight systems which are called avionics, with the risk of losing all communication with ground control.

If this happens it will force a diversion and Air Traffic Control and crew will have to revert to established landing procedures without communication, allowing for a safe landing.  

So next time your plane is delayed due to a thunderstorm, whip out your phone and thank your lucky stars. 

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