Lightning strikes an Alaska Airlines plane flying from Seattle to Hawaii

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Alaska Airlines flight hit by lightning
Alaska Airlines Flight 815 from Seattle to Lihue, Hawaii, was hit by lightning Thursday evening and had to return to Sea-Tac Airport, officials said.  

The lightning hit around 6:45 p.m., just 20 minutes into the flight. 

Alaska Airlines said no one felt anything, but the pilots knew they were hit because of a flash.  They returned to Sea-Tac to have the plane inspected.  The passengers were then put on another plane to Hawaii.

“It probably scares the bejeebers out of everybody in the first place,” said aviation expert Scott Hamilton. “The pilot is going to scan the instruments to see if the engines reacted to it, if the engines were affected by it,  if anything was affected by it.”

Alaska Airlines did not respond to KIRO 7s questions about whether the inspection showed that the plane was damaged in any way.

Hamilton and those who fly will tell you that lightning strikes on planes aren’t uncommon.  You can find numerous videos on YouTube.com.

But an Air Force C-17 pilot told KIRO 7 that it’s always unnerving.  The Air Force policy is to land the plane as soon as possible if a lightning strike is suspected.

Commercial airlines have different policies.

“When a lightning strike happens, it just sort of passes through the plane and nothing is the result,” said Hamilton.  “When a plane turns around it’s usually because some instrument reacts poorly too it.”

Lightning was blamed for bringing down a small plane in India and killing four people in January.  But technology on U.S. commercial planes is constantly improving.

The new 787 Dreamliner is built with a special conductive mesh to help the composite body handle lightning strikes.

The goal is to have the same result as Alaska Airlines flight 815 — a safe landing with no problems.

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