This interesting story on lightning
leads off with:
In the summer of 2002, I was camped at the mouth of the French River, lying on my Therm-a-Rest waiting out a thunderstorm, when my tent was struck by lightning. It was over before I knew what had happened, before adrenalin had any role to play, before fear took over. My tent poles took the charge and I was spared, completely. The narrow escape got me asking around. How often does this happen? It turns out everybody has a lightning story.
Okay. Here are mine.
When I was seven, I was walking along the side of the apartment building in which I lived, where the roof eave shielded me from the rain. Suddenly, I noticed a bright white-yellow ball, apparently the size of a large beach ball, about 100 yards away tracing an erratic path, while leaving a trail on my retina, towards a utility pole. When it got to within about 15 feet of the transformer mounted at the top of the pole, it exploded into a bright flash and a gut shaking boom. In fact, it looked exactly like this
On a night much later in life that was very dark, but not at all stormy, I was flying an F-111, descending to enter a low level route in northern Germany. My right seater was a newbie, and this was his first night terrain following radar flight in theater. In solid cloud, passing through about 3000 feet above the ground, I started hearing a screech on the radio, followed in just about the amount of time it takes to read this phrase by a blinding flash and a gut clenching boom.
Reflexively, I keyed the interphone and said "We're okay".
I couldn't see a thing. For those of you who aren't familiar with spatial disorientation, it would not have taken a lot of seconds without being able to see the artificial horizon before things would start getting very ugly very quickly. I leaned as far forward as the shoulder harness would allow, to the point where my oxygen mask was nearly touching the instrument panel. At that range (and at an age where I could focus that closely), I could just make out the attitude indicator.
I advanced the throttles to full (cold) power and set the pitch attitude at 10 degrees. Since I couldn't see the airspeed indicator, I had to pick a combination of pitch and power that wouldn't add to our problems.
Except, as my vision cleared, it had. The airspeed was rolling off. Keeping in mind that the F-111 is, so far as I know, the only airplane that will spin before it stalls, this was not a good thing. We were down on power, low on altitude, and running out of airspeed.
Slamming both throttles into afterburner solved the immediate problem. When my vision further cleared, I saw the right motor languishing at idle -- the thunderclap had compressor stalled the thing. Retarding the throttle to idle for a few seconds cleared the stall, and back to England we went.
The WSO was very quiet on the way back.
Considering the circumstances, it was imperative, in nearly the way that drawing breath is imperative, to debrief the flight at the O'Club bar.
When our first round hit the table, my WSO said, "I was reaching for the ejection handle when you said 'We are okay'. I thought the airplane had exploded. If you hadn't said anything, we would have done a silk letdown."
Same life, somewhat later. First night of Desert Storm. We were skirting a squall line of spectacularly active thunderstorms running along southern Turkey, just north of the Syrian border. As if those visuals, and the overall circumstances weren't already enough, what looked for all the world like a particularly bright yellow-green tennis ball formed on the pitot tube (pointy thing sticking out of the airplane's nose), then crept ever so slowly along the radome and up my side of the windscreen until it reached a point adjacent to the gunsight, whereupon it looked just as if the gunsight hoovered it right out of reality.
At that precise moment, another tennis ball formed on the pitot tube and began its leisurely journey. Then another, and another ...
For about five minutes.
If I was stroke prone, that would have done it for sure.
Okay, those are my stories. What are yours?
[Later in the article, the author claims lightning hits farmers more often than any other group. Nonsense, pilots are. I have been hit four times, and I don't know of any pilot with any significant amount of experience who hasn't been hit at least once]