It is possible
that the fury of an equatorial storm brought down Air France flight
flight path seems to have taken it through what meteorologists call
the inter-tropical convergence zone.
This is where
two air masses meet, sending huge storm clouds more than 40,000ft
(12,000m) into the sky.
ago, former British Airways captain Roger Guiver was confronted
with an enormous storm during a flight from Cape Town to London
weather like that extremely seriously," he says. "You
don’t go anywhere near it."
There are two
potential dangers – lightning and severe turbulence.
strike anywhere – the charge flows around the plane’s skin and can
damage electrical systems.
wings have what are called "static wicks" which dissipate
the electricity safely.
passengers looking out of the window at the wings will spot them – thin, aerial-like structures, trailing in the slipstream.
says one dramatic warning of a possible lightning strike is St Elmo’s
Fire – static that flickers over the windscreen as the plane flies
through a storm.
almost never causes air crashes, at least directly.
Aviation Safety Network database lists just 15 incidents in more
than 50 years of aviation history.
The worst was
the loss of an Iranian Air Force Boeing 747 in 1976 near Madrid.
Lightning ignited vapour in a fuel tank, causing an explosion.