Ever diverted – TWICE – and been struck by lighting on a Jet? It happened on this SAS flight – wow!

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An SAS jet in Gothenburg Sweden

I love having conversations with non-frequent flyer folks. Some of them have either never been on a plane or only flown a few times. Flying still scares them. I just don’t get that, but part of it is because I am always flying and often many times a month. I feel safe once I get on the jet; I am nervous driving and until I board, not after. But if I had been on this SAS flight I would maybe want some time on the ground. Notice what the Local.se reports:

“SAS flight SK596 traveling from Reykjavik was supposed to have landed at Copenhagen Airport at 3.35pm on Monday. However, the airport temporarily closed in the afternoon due to strong winds caused by ‘Storm Urd’ and the plane was redirected to Malmö Airport in Sweden.

“The crew was supposed to land there to refuel and then fly onward to Copenhagen,” SAS spokesperson Karin Nymann told regional Swedish newspaper Kvällsposten.”

I have never had to divert due to fuel, but my wife has due to hurricane force winds near her destination. For those who do not know, fuel is always an issue. Jets have maximum range and even with 100% full fuel they can run into factors that mean they are running low and need to add more to make it safely to the destination. Airlines plan for this. But jets do not always fly full. If it is a short flight why spend extra cost to haul around extra gas that is not needed. If issues arise this can mean diverting for more gas (like stronger than expected head winds and such). But notice what happens next:

“”We were just some hundred meters from the runway when the pilot hit the gas again because it was too windy,” passenger Jonas Johansson told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.

“When we were on our way up again there was a flash of lightning and people screamed.”

He told the newspaper he smelled smoke and burning. The crew announced that they were going to land at Bornholm island instead, but said there was nothing wrong with the aircraft itself.”

Yikes! Now it is not uncommon for jets to be struck by lightning and they have safeguards in place to have the energy pass out of the air frame and it should cause no damage as was the case here. But that does not make it any less scary and especially so VERY close to the ground and in the middle of a “go around” – that is, an aborted landing as was the case here.

The result of this was the second diversion to Bornhold and an overnight stay and SAS sending another jet to the island to get the passengers at last to Copenhagen and they would examine the jet they were on.

Flying is always interesting. I have had some rough turbulence but it never scares me, in fact it makes me sleepy. I have had any number of go-arounds and they don’t bother me at all. I have had crosswind landings that always are interesting but flight crews do these all the time. I have had “computer” landings (crew told us it was) where the fog was so bad you did not see the ground until you felt the ground. But I have never diverted twice and been struck by lighting.

What would it take to make you want to stay on the ground for a few days or what has really happened to you that got your “full attention”? – René


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  1. Flying from Norfolk to Atlanta flight was cancelled because they was a fuel problem at the airport. Next day they flew in a 767 with extra fuel and gave fuel to the 737. First time I heard of that. Copilot then realize that the 737 had a problem with its nose gear tire so they put us on the 767 to Atlanta. On the way to Atlanta, about two miles out we were hit by lighting. Orange glow…kinda cool. People screaming and praying but flying as much as I do I realize what had happened. No big deal.

    Years later, fly DC to Fresno on USAir via Phoenix. Had issue with aircraft at DCA. Lights kept flashing on plane. Problem fixed so we took off. about an hour or so into the flight, lights start flashing again. Pilot said something wrong with the electrical system so we will be making an emergency landing in St. Luis. Switched to another plane hours later and away we went. Phoenix closed due to bad weather so we circled for a while then had to divert to Tucson. Finally left Tucson…of course my connection to Fresno is long gone. USAir gave me a hotel to shower and get an hour sleep before back to the airport and on to Fresno. I told myself that if anything was wrong with the Fresno flight that morning that I’d spend a few days in Tucson….but all went without a hitch. Over 24 hours from DC to Fresno but hey, that’s what flying is all about.

  2. I’ve had three interesting experiences. For the sake of time and space, I’ll share one of them.

    In the early 90s when I was flying with Civil Air Patrol we had completed a mission transporting a government employee from Indy to Chicago. I was flying right seat on the way back. We took off from Palwaukee airport on the north side of Chicago around 10pm. Our Cessna 172 climbed to our cruise altitude with no problem. Then over Lake Michigan we noticed the cockpit lights growing dim. We contacted Palwaukee tower to say we were returning. It wasn’t long before the lights went out completely and things were pitch black. Engine noise gave us a rough idea of rpms. Lights along Lake Michigan established a horizon. Over Chicago, light from the city provided enough illumination so we could read the instruments. We landed and taxied to the ramp where we could then see that the master switch, which consists of two parts, had somehow only been partially engaged. Apparently the battery was discharging during flight instead of charging.

    We fully engaged the master switch and took off again. This is where things took a turn for the best. ATC vectored us directly over ORD at about 3,500 feet. It was a cold, clear night and visibility was striking. The C-172 cruises at about 105 knots of indicated airspeed. We had several minutes to enjoy a spectacular and unique view of ORD. As the saying goes: “I learned about flying from that.”

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