Multiple lightning strikes cause delays in Auckland

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December 04, 2018
Auckland Thunderstorms auckland
Aircraft in Auckland just prior to the thunderstorms. Photo: Steve Creedy

Lightning does strike twice or, in the case of Auckland International Airport, as many as five times as aircraft were taken out of service due to fears they had been hit.

For our Sydney-bound Boeing 777 bound it came as a loud crack of thunder and the lights briefly going out during storms that saw 130 lightning strikes in the Auckland region over five minutes.

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The apologetic captain explained we may have been hit by lightning and the plane would need an inspection as a precautionary measure.

He wasn’t sure whether the inspection would be done at the gate or the aircraft would be towed to the hangar.

He said four other planes, this was later updated to five, were in the same predicament and Air New Zealand operations was working on how to prioritize the inspections.

Our service was subsequently canceled due to “engineering requirements” resulting from the strike.

The airline said mid-morning that the thunderstorms were continuing to cause significant disruption at Auckland with gate delays affecting arriving aircraft and problems with ground staff having to stop work when lightning was in the vicinity.

It said it had deployed additional engineers to speed up work on “several aircraft” requiring engineering inspections due to possible lightning strikes.

Air New Zealand chief operational integrity standards officer Captain David Morgan says while aircraft are insulated and designed to withstand lightning strikes, they must be inspected before they can depart.

“While we regret the disruption to our customers, safety must come first and we ask customers to bear with us today as we manage through the effects of the weather and carry out these inspections,” Captain Morgan said.

“Our team is doing everything possible to get our customers to their destinations however due to the uncontrollable nature of the weather and expected flow-on effects customers should consider whether or not they need to travel today,”

It is not particularly unusual for aircraft to be struck by lightning but having a number potentially hit at the same time is a rarer event.