Computational Investigation of Lightning Strike Effects on Aircraft Components

Ranjith, Ravichandran;Myong, Rho Shin;Lee, Sangwook

  • Received : 2013.08.25
  • Accepted : 2014.03.17
  • Published : 2014.03.30


A lightning strike to the aircraft seriously affects the aircraft and its components in various ways. As one of the most critical threats to the flight safety of an aircraft, fuel vapour ignition by lightning can occur through various means, notably through hot spot formation on the fuel tank skins. In this study, a coupled thermal-electrical approach using the commercial software ABAQUS is used to study the effects of a lightning strike on aircraft fuel tanks. This approach assumes that the electrical conductivity of a material depends on temperature, and that a temperature rise in a material due to Joule heat generation depends on electrical current. The inter-dependence of thermal and electrical properties-the thermal-electrical coupling-is analyzed by a coupled thermal-electrical analysis module. The analysis elucidates the effects of different material properties and thicknesses of tank skins and identifies the worst case of lightning zones.


lightning;fuel vapour ignition;hot spot formation;coupled thermal-electrical approach


  1. Rupke, E., Lightning Direct Effects Handbook, Lightning Technologies Inc., Pittsfield, 2002.
  2. Burrows, B., Haigh, S., Chessum, C., and Dunkley, V., "Lightning Protection Design and Testing of an All Composite Wet Wing for the Egrett," The 1991 International Aerospace and Ground Conference on Lightning and Static Electricity, Vol. 1, 1991.
  3. Kostogorova-Beller, Y., "Physics of Interaction of Lightning Currents with Aluminum Sheets," Journal of Aircraft, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2012, pp. 66-75.
  4. Laroche, P., Blanchet, P., Delannoy, A., and Issac, F., "Experimental Studies of Lightning Strikes to Aircraft," Lightning Hazards to Aircraft and Launchers, Journal Aerospace Lab, AL 05-06, 2012.
  5. Aircraft Lightning Protection Handbook, U. S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, 1989.
  6. Fuel Tank Ignition Source Prevention Guidelines, Advisory Circular, AC No. 25.981-1C, U. S. Department of Transportation, 2008.
  7. Kostogorova-Beller, Y., "Quantification of the Materials's Resistance to Damage by Lightning," Journal of Aircraft, Vol. 50, No. 3, 2013, pp. 827-831.
  8. Condon, E., Aircraft Lightning: Requirements, Component Testing, Aircraft Testing and Certification, The University of Kansas Continuing Education, Lawrence, 2012.
  9. Plumer, J., "Further Thoughts on Location of Lightning Strike Zones on Aircraft," Lightning Technology, Proceedings of a Technical Symposium at NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, U.S., 1980, pp. 81-98.
  10. Lalande, P., and Delannoy, A., "Numerical Methods for Zoning Computation," Lightning Hazards to Aircraft and Launchers, Journal Aerospace Lab, AL 05-08, 2012.
  11. Morgan, D., Hardwick, C., Haigh, S., and Meakins, A., "The Interaction of Lightning with Aircraft and the Challenges of Lightning Testing," Lightning Hazards to Aircraft and Launchers, Journal Aerospace Lab, AL 05-11, 2012.
  12. ABAQUS Theory Manual, Coupled Thermal-Electrical Analysis, pp. 2.12.1-1 - 2.12.1-6.
  13. ABAQUS Analysis User's Manual, Coupled Thermal- Electrical Analysis, pp. 6.7.3-1 - 6.7.3-11.
  14. Ogasawara, T., Hirano, Y., and Yoshimura, A., "Coupled Thermal-Electrical Analysis for Carbon Fiber/ Epoxy Composites Exposed to Simulated Lightning Current," Composites: Part A, Vol. 41, 2010, pp. 973-981.
  15. ASM Handbook, Vol. 2, Properties and Selection: Nonferrous Alloys and Special-Purpose Materials, pp. 180, 355.
  16. Hirano, Y., Katsumata, S., Iwahori, Y., and Todoroki, A., "Artificial Lightning Testing on Graphite/Epoxy Composite Laminate," Composites: Part A, Vol. 41, 2010, pp. 1461-1470.
  17. Plumer, J., and Robb, J., "The Direct Effects of Lightning on Aircraft," IEEE Transactions on Electromagnetic Compatability, Vol. EMC-24, No. 2, 1982, pp. 158-172.
  18. Chemartin, L., Lalande, P., Peyrou, B., Chazottes, A., Elias, P., Delalondre, C., Cheron, B., and Lago, F., "Direct Effects of Lightning on Aircraft Structure: Analysis of the Thermal, Electrical and Mechanical Constraints," Lightning Hazards to Aircraft and Launchers, Journal Aerospace Lab, AL 05-09, 2012.
  19. Feraboli, P., and Miller, M., "Damage Resistance and Tolerance of Carbon/Epoxy Composite Coupons Subjected to Simulated Lightning Strike," Composites: Part A, Vol. 40, 2009, pp. 954-967.
  20. Rasch, N., User's Manual for AC-20-53A Protection of Airplane Fuel Systems Against Fuel Vapor Ignition Due to Lightning, U. S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, 1984.

Cited by

  1. Dynamics Modeling andL1Adaptive Control of a Transport Aircraft for Heavyweight Airdrop vol.2015, 2015,
  2. Computational Simulation of Lightning Strike on Aircraft and Design of Lightning Protection System vol.44, pp.12, 2016,
  3. Lateral Control for Ultra-low Altitude Airdrop Based on the L1 Adaptive Control Augmentation vol.16, pp.2, 2018,


Supported by : National Research Foundation