A380 lightning strike inspection

On average, every commercial aircraft is struck by lightning once or twice a year. After the aircraft lands, an inspection must always be performed to assess the state of the aircraft prior to return to service. The Airbus A380 is no exception and here you will learn the ins and outs of lightning strike inspections performed on this aircraft type.

The development of the Airbus A380 started in the 1980s, but it only entered service on October 15th, 2007, with Singapore Airlines. Despite its challenges, it is the largest commercial aircraft ever built with a maximum passenger capacity of 853.  

How often is an Airbus A380 hit by lightning?

Over the years Airbus has delivered a total of 240 aircraft to major airlines all over the world. The Airbus A380 has reached the end of its lifespan and as of 2021 will no longer be in production. The decision to end its production as soon as the last orders are delivered to Emirates was announced in February 2019.

The Airbus A380 is struck once or twice a year by lightning and given the global fleet in the world, this results in 240 to 480 lightning strikes per year.

Picture Airbus A380-800 coming in to land

Are there any incidents with an Airbus A380 caused by lightning strikes?

Picture Airbus A380 Lightning strike

Despite the frequency of lightning strikes on the Airbus A380, no major aircraft incidents have occurred for the Airbus A380.

Does the use of GLARE affect lightning strikes on an Airbus A380?

On the Airbus A380, GLARE is widely used as a structural material due to its weight and fatigue properties. It stands out from other “sandwich” composites because of its alternating layers of glass fiber reinforced bond film (epoxy) and aluminum are applied at 90-degree angles to each other. By positioning the layers in that way, it improves the strength of the material.

After several years of service (but not sales), we know the A380 is a big aircraft, but commercially it was not the big success Airbus had planned for. The newer and smaller A350XWB won’t exactly replace the A380, but it has already found a niche in the market. The smaller footprint of the A350XWB aligns better with the smaller footprint of most US airports.

Interestingly, Airbus decided against using GLARE for the A350. The manufacturer returned to the familiar recipe using aluminum alloy around the cockpit, and carbon fiber for the body of the aircraft. When considering the best lightning strike protection for an aircraft type, it’s critical to consider the aircraft’s overall design and the placement and manner of attachment of its components.

Picture Production Glare A380 parts

How many man-hours does it take to perform a lightning strike inspection on an Airbus A380?

Picture Airbus A380 aircraft inspection

After the aircraft is struck by lightning, the aircraft is grounded and thoroughly inspected for damage such as pits and burn marks by aircraft maintenance engineers to guarantee its airworthiness before the next flight. The inspection alone requires 3 licensed aircraft maintenance engineers and 12 hours to complete. The total man-hours for an Airbus A380 lightning strike inspection are 36 hours.

To assess the status of the aircraft, the aircraft maintenance engineers will move from station to station, from stringer to stringer, using additional equipment to inspect the top of the fuselage and the tail. The tail is 24 meters high and not easy to reach while the aircraft elevators and stabilizers are blocking the man lifter equipment. Often during the inspection, additional damage can be caused.

How does a drone fit in the aircraft lightning strike inspection process of an Airbus A380?

The use of drones for aircraft inspections brings game-changing results for the aviation industry and particularly Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) companies and organizations. All aspects of the inspection procedure, from drone flight to report generation, are automated, allowing the ground team to easily analyze and report the status of an aircraft.

In the event of a lightning strike, using a drone to perform aircraft inspection on the Airbus A380 can decrease the inspection time by 75%. A drone can speed up the entire process of the General Visual Inspection (GVI) during a lightning strike inspection, which can now be performed in minutes (60 minutes) instead of hours (12 hours). Our drone will safely fly around the aircraft and capture high-resolution pictures, allowing aircraft maintenance engineers to make a much faster damage assessment.

Picture showing Mainblades drone at Boeing aircraft

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A380 lightning strike inspection