National Geographic : 1950 Jun
Lightning in Action Westinghouse Electric Corp. Lightning Cannot Harm the Driver Who Stays Inside His Steel Fort A three-million-volt stroke strikes harmlessly in this test at Westinghouse's High Voltage Laboratory. Metal carries the current to the front wheel, where it leaps across rubber to ground (page 809). One pilot flying through a thunderstorm at 26,000 feet in heavy snow reported: "Radio static kept building in intensity until it was so severe that I couldn't keep the earphones close to my ears. I heard what sounded like the sharp burst of a German 88-mm. gun. A sheet of flame simultaneously enveloped the entire cockpit. My airspeed indicator jumped from 190 to 500 miles per hour and stayed there. "Everything looked a bit fuzzy. The air was so turbulent and the instruments jumped around so much that I couldn't tell for a moment what was going on. I just let the air plane buck through. Then after what seemed hours the airspeed came back to normal." Film records showed that his airspeed in dicator actually stayed at the erroneous read ing of 500 miles per hour for only about 30 seconds. The radar operator in the same plane, who was not wearing dark goggles, said he was unable to read his indicator panel for about two minutes after the flash. Dr. Ross Gunn of the Weather Bureau made 25 flights through thunderstorms, and his plane was struck three times. He heard only sharp clicks when the lightning hit, once within a foot of him. No one felt any thing. Pilots avoid thunderstorms, not because of lightning, but because of the far greater danger from the turbulent air currents inside the cloud. Such currents can dash a plane thou sands of feet upward or downward in seconds. They have thrown B-29's on their backs. To the U. S. forest fire lookouts* who guard * See "Forest Lookout," by Ella E. Clark, NA TIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1946.