4 airplanes struck by lightning during flight

HOUSTON - The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed on Friday night that four different commercial aircraft were struck by lightning in the Houston area, Local 2 Investigates reported on Friday.

All four of the flights were struck within a couple hours of each other as heavy storms pounded the Houston afternoon rush hour.  Two of the flights were struck within five minutes of one another, prompting both pilots to declare emergencies and land with fire trucks lining the same runway at Intercontinental Airport.

Here are the flight details provided by the FAA

  • United Flight 1007 to Bogota, Columbia:   This Boeing 737 aircraft had just departed Houston Intercontinental Airport, when the pilot reported to air traffic controllers that the plane was hit by lightning 15-miles east of the airport.   The plane returned for an emergency landing with fire crews standing by around 5:20 p.m.
  • United Express Flight 4637 to Mobile, Alabama:   This Embraer 145 aircraft (a commuter plane) took off with 47 passengers aboard and had a mechanical issue, forcing the plane to turn around. It was 35 miles northeast of the airport when the pilot reported the plane was struck by lightning on its way back to the airport. Passengers were placed on other flights to  Mobile, according to an airline representative.
  • Delta Flight 1832 from Atlanta:  This MD-80 aircraft was headed for Houston Hobby Airport when the pilot reported to air traffic controllers that his plane was struck by lightning.  The plane continued on and made a landing without any problems, according to the FAA
  • AirTran Flight 297 from Atlanta: The Boeing 717 was flying from Atlanta to Houston Hobby.

The United Airlines flight to Bogota was seen parked at Gate C-34, where United personnel said the plane was being checked and passengers were being prepared to leave from the same gate.

Passengers were seen through the aircraft windows, listening to music and drinking beverages as crews prepared the plane to depart yet again.

Lightning continued flashing around the airport into the night Friday. As airliners were lined up in the skies to the west of Intercontinental Airport around 7 p.m., their bright landing lights would occasionally be surrounded by flashes of lightning in the sky.

One veteran air traffic controller told Local 2 Investigates that lightning strikes are not uncommon and airliners are built to withstand them.  He expressed surprise that so many flights could be struck on the same night within hours of one another.

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