American Airlines Flight Is Hit By Lightning And Forced To Make An Emergency Landing At JFK Amid Fears Of 'Explosion'

Passengers on board flight American Airlines 4233, which was flying from Raleigh-Durham to New York, said they saw a flash of light and heard what sounded like an explosion as the plane flew through stormy weather. Fellow passenger, Lou Luca, said the pla

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  • Flight 4233 was flying from Raleigh-Durham to LaGuardia in New York
  • Passengers saw a flash of light and heard a big bang when strike occurred
  • One man said the plane dipped and he felt like he was on a roller coaster
  • Others said it felt like a 'missile' had hit the plane 
  • Plane, carrying 55 passengers and four crew, diverted to JFK International

 American Airlines passengers say they were left shaken after their plane was struck by lightning and forced to make an emergency landing.

The Embraer 175 sustained apparent scorch marks on its tail wing when it flew through stormy weather on a 90-minute flight from Raleigh-Durham airport in North Carolina to New York.

Passengers described a terrifying scene as they witnessed a flash of light and heard what sounded like a massive explosion, according to reports.

Aviation safety experts said today's planes are manufactured to withstand lightning strikes

Passenger Rebecca Seger snapped this photo of the plane being met by firefighters after it landed

After the plane landed safely yesterday, passenger Diante Edwards told ABC 7: ‘It was pretty terrifying, I’m not going to lie.’

Another passenger, Lou Luca, said the plane dipped and he felt like he was on a roller coaster, adding: ‘I thought we got hit by a missile. Soiled my pants a little bit, it was bad.’

In an interview with CBS New York, an unidentified passenger said: ‘There was a flash of light right outside the first row window on the left hand side of the plane and then a tremendous bang.

‘It just lit up blue inside the plane.’

Experts said an aircraft's metal body acts as a conductor, allowing the strike's electricity to pass through it

The twin-engine plane, carrying 55 passengers and four crew members from Raleigh-Durham airport, was supposed to land at LaGuardia but as a precaution diverted to JFK International, which has longer runways, for a speedier landing.

Flight 4233, operated by Republic Airlines under American Airlines' regional brand, American Eagle, landed safely at JFK shortly after 6pm local time.

Audio posted on the website LiveATC revealed that the pilots were concerned about the storm as they made their final approach to LaGuardia.

They requested a change in their flight path to avoid the storm, but then notified air traffic controllers that the plane had suffered a direct hit.

In the recording, the pilot says: ‘Brickyard 4233, just got hit by lightning.’

An air traffic controller from LaGuardia responds: ‘Roger, everything OK?’

The pilot says: ‘Yeah, don’t send us through there again, it’s pretty bad. Let’s go ahead and divert to JFK.’

As a precaution, the plane was met by firefighters when it landed.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it is investigating the incident.

MailOnline Travel has contacted Republic Airlines for comment. 

One passenger told news reporters  that he feared a missile had hit the plane

While it may have been a terrifying ordeal, flight safety experts say today’s aircraft are manufactured to withstand lightning strikes.

David Learmount, operations and safety editor of the website Flightglobal, previously told MailOnline Travel: 'Planes get hit by lightning several times a year. They act as a conductor. Getting a good strike like this can look very dramatic but it might not make any impact.

'Manufacturers must make aircraft capable of withstanding a lightning strike and protecting those inside.

'It means the plane's body must contain metal so it can act as a conductor, allowing the electricity to pass through it.

'If it didn't have the metal, the plane could explode when hit.'

British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) spokesperson Captain Steven Draper previously said: 'Lightning strikes do not affect the flying of an aeroplane, although when flying near or through thunderstorms, pilots might employ specific procedures. Pilots use the weather radar to avoid the worst areas of a storm.

‘Airplanes have a published “turbulence speed” which provides the best passenger comfort and protection from the turbulence.

‘In a storm the pilot may adopt that speed. Other procedures a pilot might employ include turning up the flight deck lighting to reduce the dazzling effect of lightning and ensuring the aircraft ice protection is on.’


Although it may sound a terrifying prospect, commercial aircraft around the world are bombarded with bolts of lightning every single day.

According to experts, in an average year any given airliner can expect to be struck at least once on its travels.

Indeed, as the fuselage of most planes is made of conductive aluminium, their presence in storm clouds, where huge amounts of static electricity gather, can actually trigger the discharges.

But due to strict regulations, all passenger planes must be built with electrical shielding which protects the inside of the plane from the effects of lightning bolts.

Those on board often fail to notice that the plane has been hit at all, or experience nothing more than a quick flash.

It is estimated that aircraft shielding is strong enough to withstand voltages ten times the amount of a typical bolt, and no planes have been brought down by lightning since 1967.

The worst to be expected from a lightning blast is a visible scorch mark. Occasionally flights that are struck early in their journey are diverted as a safety precaution.



By Bradley Hayes 18/03/2016 08:00:00