Lightning Safety


I have a question…How does your airport outline lightning safety? For instance, at IAD, TPA, PIE if it is within 5-7 miles of the airport all ramp operations stop. The second part of my question is how does the airport and or your company let you know the ramp is closed? How do they determine when it reopens?


Lightening = 1: to make light or clear : illuminate. 2: enlighten 3: to make (as a color) lighter.

Lightning = 1: the flashing of light produced by a discharge of atmospheric electricity; also : the discharge itself.


TKS for catching that JHEM…off to get more coffee now. :wink:


Better get two!



3rd time I hope is the charm :blush: :open_mouth: :wink:


Well I have a nice lightning story for this. One summer night about 3 years ago our 540pm departure was delayed till about 1000pm due to thunderstorms between here and chicago. Well the storms were just rolling into our area when the tower called and said we were released to ORD. So now we have the choice do we either run outside and try to get this out before the storm or let them sit and probably cancell. Well we chose the first option and I was working gate and just got everyone on board and just started pulling the jetbridge back. A huge lightning bolt just hit the terminal right at the top of the jet bridge. It was a deafening sound and everything went dark as the power went off and everything was black. The two girls on the ramp I thought had dissintegrated because I couldnt find them on the ramp becuz of the pitch black. I could only hear them screaming and thought they got hit. I started screaming to get off the ramp and they came up into the jetbridge and were crying. Well needless to say it was a very close call. We have never really been told when to get off the ramp. I know it was our choice but we just wanted to get the people out of here so they can get home. Needless to say the plane sat out there for 45 minutes at the gate till the storm passed. Unfortunately it ended up cancelling anyway since the airport had no power.
Sorry such a long story, but this is serious stuff. Never again will you catch me standing out on the ramp in a thunderstorm. It was so loud I could hear anything for about 10minutes after it hit. We just got lucky that no one got hurt that night.


our airport we use the air force base runway’s…the airport usually gets a call from base ops which they pass on to us when there is lightning within 5 miles


Ottawa Airport has a lightning detector that (from fading memory) detects activity inside of 10 miles (or 5 miles). It then activates strobe flashers on the terminal building (there’s a bunch of them) and they strobe your corneas until 10 minutes after the last strike; no planes can be serviced or even coupled/uncoupled from gates.
In 2006 there was a bunch of deviated flight from Montreal (severe T-storms) and by the time they landed in YOW the storms had started there, the planes sat on the ramp for almost 3 frikkin’ hours before being refueled/serviced.


Hmmm, a lot of years ago at Army airfields the first crack of thunder would get the ramp cleared by a single blast of the crash horn. The all clear (another single blast of the crash horn) wouldn’t sound until we hadn’t heard another thunder clap for 10 minutes or so. Not very scientific but it was all we had.

BradB145, no need to apologize for the length of your story. We’ve seen many that were much longer and far less interesting.


It used to be that we were pulled off the ramp by the local CFR when lightning was striking near by. Now we’re told its at our discretion. We had a pretty crazy night a couple weeks back with a near-hit tornado(about a mile away) they evacuated everyone(specifically our passengers) downstairs but said we could stay up top. We did, and it was a fantastic show, got the plane out 45minutes late, and backed up all the passengers. I had to warn the new airline(a bunch of new kids that just started, they apparently have a pretty high turnover rate) that they needed to get off the field.


At WN, we handle our lightning detection ourselfs. We have a computer based detection system that works out to 20 miles. If lightning is detected within 8 miles, we go to code yellow, 5 miles fueling stops and 3 miles, code red and all ramp operations stop. We also have " sparky" our ramp warning system that uses and siren and lighting codes to alert the ramp.


I remember when I was with WN in TPA standing in ops. waiting for the red light so we could all go to the breakroom…now that is the way to ride out a storm.

What caused me to bring this topic was the fact that over the course of the past 2 summers I have had to work through some pretty intense storms with lightning popping all over the immediate area. When I would mention it I was always told “Well the ‘Red’ phone never rang the ramp is still open”. The red phone is a direct hotline to the airport operations who have a detection system. In years past on the pax side of the world the ramp would shut down and everyone knew they just had to be patient. A new manager has said “We need a better system”. I do know just last week we had a crew time out since the fuel co. would not come across the field since it was closed due to the storm. We however must forge on and got our other flights out. FUN!!! :wink:


Part of my job is to make the call when to close the ramp. Our lightning detector was broken years ago, so I call the fuel lead or fuel dispatch and have them notify me when they close the ramp.
We had a guy who was lowering the belt on a belt loader to get the heck off the ramp when a bolt of lightning hit the aircraft and traveled down the belt loader and zapped him.(not on my watch) He was shocked :laughing: but physically okay. You won’t see him out when there is even the slightest chance of being hit.


When I started with WN back in the 70s, we worked though the storms. I was working in HOU one afternoon during a TS and watch a flight push back, the guy on the headset set on the towbar under the nose once the plane stopped, and as he was sitting there, lightning struck the tail and shot him out from under the nose. He wasn’t hurt but did leave a red mark on him butt and legs.


What about takeoffs and landings? I work about 3 miles north of DCA, and there was a small, developing storm with cloud-to-ground lightning between my building and the airport. Planes were departing to the northwest on runway 1, flying under the north side of the storm, where I DON’T think it was actually raining. Still, there was lightning flashing in the vicinity of the traffic pattern. I was expecting to NOT see any more departures during my break, but the planes just kept on coming and the lightning kept flashing.

Do the operations continue until windshear is detected or reported? How does that work?


As far as takeoffs/landings, I think a lot of carriers just go until there’s windshear, or they’re painting magenta on the radar. I remember a Dick Karl story a few months ago that mentioned that kind of thing going into TPA…