St Elmo’s Fire light show

June 09, 2017

A pilot has captured the dramatic light show from a St Elmo’s Fire event while flying through intense thunderstorms.

Christiaan van Heijst, a pilot with freight airline Cargolux flying Boeing 747s explains that he encountered a huge front of active thunderstorms over mid-Atlantic near the Equator.

“There was no way to fly all around this squall line of entangled thunderstorms that stretched across our route for hundreds of miles to either side, Mr van Heijst said.

“Coming closer, the radar provided us with a more detailed image of the interior of the clouds ahead, enabling us to plan a route through this maze of violent weather.”

“Suddenly the air around our plane seemed to turn dark blue and purple but actually it was our own plane that was starting to glow ever stronger.

“A plasma of purple and pink surrounded the fuselage, wings, and engines and created a surrealistic atmosphere.

“The rims of the [cockpit] windows suddenly start to glow bright and the first sparks danced over our windows, growing in frequency fast.”

“The phenomenon that is called St Elmo’s Fire since it appeared on ship masts and sails near thunderstorms and religious sailors often thought it meant the presence of St Elmo to assure their safe passage through a storm.”

Mr van Heijst said that “in general it’s regarded as a good omen and completely harmless for the object it’s manifested on but in these situations, it is a clear indication that we’re flying in heavily charged clouds and a lightning strike could be imminent.”

Captain van Heijst is one of the world’s leading aviation photographers and his work can be found here;