Re: Snowstorms and electrical charges

Date:         08 Feb 99 02:49:15 
From:         Ken Ishiguro <kenish@earthlink.net>
Organization: EarthLink Network, Inc.
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Well, true to a point-

Yes, dry blowing snow can build up a static charge.  My friend who grew
up on a ranch in Colorado learned at a very early age to never touch a
metal fence in cold, windy, dry conditions!  Aircraft can build up a
static charge from snow, rain, or just the friction of the air across
the fuselage.  That's why people jump from a hovering helicopter- they
never touch the helicopter and ground simultaneously until the
helicopter lands.  It's also why you see a grounding wire attached to
planes as soon as they taxi to the gate.

Aircraft are equipped with devices to drain off static buildup in
flight, so the airplane story is urban legend as you state.  The devices
look like 2-4 short pieces of wire dangling from the trailing edges of
the ailerons, rudder, etc.  Even rain can cause static to build up. This
can cause interference with radios and navigation equipment.

Ken Ishiguro