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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

NASA Lightning Researcher to Appear on ABC News

A NASA engineer who flew in a plane that was struck by lightning hundreds of times will be featured in a segment that airs on the ABC News program 20/20 this
Friday, Dec. 14.

ABC's Elizabeth Vargas interviewed Bruce Fisher of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., earlier this month for a program on travel myths. Vargas wanted to know whether lightning could cause an airliner to crash.

Fisher was part of the eight-year NASA Storm Hazards Research Program in the 1980s that studied lightning strikes and helped improve lightning protection standards for commercial and military aircraft. Pilots navigated an instrumented F-106 jet through thunderstorms looking for lightning, while researchers took data during the storm penetrations. Fisher figures he flew through more than 200 lightning strikes. In all, the F-106 made 1,496 thunderstorm penetrations and took 714 direct lightning hits.

"We tried to quantify the electro-magnetic properties of lightning in flight, and lightning strikes to aircraft," Fisher says. "That way we could come up with certification and test standards so that lightning won't affect newer technologies now on aircraft like computerized systems and displays inside of airplanes or composite materials on the outside ofairplanes."

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