Preliminary Report: Lightning strike damages Embraer

 - May 19, 2008, 8:10 AM

EMBRAER EMB-145LR, CHESTER, MASS., MARCH 26, 2002–FAA inspectors found a “baseball size” hole in the left elevator of a Chautauqua Airlines–d.b.a. America West Express Flight 5058–aircraft after it encountered lightning on approach into Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, Conn. All three crewmembers and 14 passengers escaped injury in the incident. Originating from the Port Columbus International Airport (CMH) in Ohio, the flight was operating on an IFR flight plan under Part 121 regulations.

According to the captain, the airplane was descending between 13,000 ft and 11,000 ft near the swede intersection in rain and snow. Weather radar showed no indication of cells in the flight path and the crew reported seeing the last visible lightning more than 20 min before their aircraft was struck. They told investigators the Embraer was “noticeably struck by lightning” seemingly without consequence: “All instruments appeared normal, they noted no caution messages and the autopilot remained on.”

During the landing at BDL the airplane “took more than the usual force to flare.” The pilots reported that during the rollout the gust lock could not be engaged and the elevator stuck in a “middle position.” Beyond the hole in the elevator, investigators found the four elevator control cables severed. In the preliminary report of the event, overall damage to the aircraft was categorized as minor.