'Big Ball of Light' Hits Air New Zealand Flight NZ5070
By Reissa Su | August 15, 2014 4:33 PM EST
A 'massive ball of light' has hit Air New Zealand two minutes before it was due to land in Auckland. Jen Donoghue, a passenger in the plane, described seeing a "big" ball of light hit the plane with a "loud, massive bang."
The shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion maritime search aircraft can be seen on low-level clouds as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean looking for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Rob Griffith/Pool
Donoghue recalled that she had only been in four flights in her life with the fourth plane struck by lightning. When she saw the light and heard the sound, she thought the plane's engine had blown up.
According to reports, Air New Zealand Flight NZ5070 was on its way to Auckland from Palmerston North. When the plane, an ATR 72 turboprop, was struck, a flight attendant sitting close to the cockpit was quick to react.
She told the New Zealand Herald that other passengers inside the plane began "freaking out." The flight attendant was confused while she was looking around the plane. Donoghue said the female flight attendant seated at the back announced in a calm voice that an aircraft getting struck by lightning happens "every now and then."
The Air New Zealand crew had calmed passengers down, and the pilot had declared that the lightning did not damage the plane. The pilot explained that when lightning hits the plane, it usually travels from the point of impact all the way to the tail which has three tips. Passengers were assured that the tips were designed to withstand electricity.
Air New Zealand has since confirmed that Flight NZ5070 was hit by lightning as it approached Auckland. A spokesperson for the company told media that engineers will check the plane before it will be cleared for another flight.
Aviation expert Peter Clark remarked that aircrafts were designed to expel the lightning's impact when it hits. He said planes have a "conductive surface" on their carbon frames. He explained lightning is one of the perils of flying in the sky.
Meanwhile, a lightning storm including hail and thunder had hit Wellington, causing the explosion of the wind needle near Wellington Airport.
MetService meteorologist Liz Walsh reported an active southerly front had moved to South Island before passing through Cook Strait into Wellington.
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