Hawaiian Airlines Flight 5 was immediately caught in the middle of a thunderstorm after the plane departed Las Vegas on Sunday at 7:57 p.m. The aircraft was struck by a bolt of lightning, KHON 2 reports.
Hawaiian Airlines A330 Emergency
“The scariest part for us was getting hit by lightning,” passenger Julie-Anna Bardon told the outlet. “There were people on the flight that were crying.” The passenger described the initial panic on board as the lightning bolt struck the aircraft.
“We don’t know if the plane has structural damage, we don’t know if we’re gonna be able to land safely, there’s a lot of things we don’t know,” she added.
The aircraft was in the air for approximately 20 minutes before the incident occurred. The pilots promptly executed a U-turn, returning the plane safely to Harry Reid International Airport at around 8:30 p.m., as data from the flight-tracking website FlightAware indicated.
Hawaiian Airlines confirmed that the diversion was due to lightning, ensuring the safety of all 278 passengers and 11 crew members who returned to Las Vegas without incident. The airline arranged hotel accommodations and meals for the passengers while airport crews conducted inspections on the aircraft.
The flight to Honolulu was rescheduled for Tuesday at 4 a.m.
It’s worth noting that commercial airline incidents involving lightning strikes are exceptionally rare, with only one or two reported each year, according to the National Weather Service.
Despite the improved lightning-resistant design of modern aircraft, airlines are still required to land and inspect for potential damage in such situations, as mandated by the NWS.
The National Weather Service (NWS) pointed out that lightning strikes can occur more frequently with smaller, private aircraft that are not subject to the same regulations.
In a notable incident last year, singer Miley Cyrus was on a tour in South America when her private plane had to make an emergency landing due to a lightning strike while en route to Paraguay.
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