Waiting for pushback the other day on a flight with a short connecting time for yet another flight, the Captain announced an indefinite delay because of weather – lightning in the area of the airport, to be precise. While I was worried about making my connection in Charlotte, I was also glad that activity on the ramp had stopped to wait out the danger of a high-voltage discharge of atmospheric electricity anywhere near people working outside at the airport.
And near doesn’t mean right over the airport either. Lightning can travel miles from its source. I believe I have heard as many as 10 miles. And an airport is basically an open field with aircraft tails usually the highest obstacle.
Closing the ramp during electrical storms was not always the case. Back in my day, work continued through inclement weather, with or without lightning. And some people paid a very high price for that.
I remember a worker seriously injured when his head set attracted a surge of electrical discharge from lightning. In a freak accident, the ramp worker – who was assisting with pushback and connected to the airplane via a headset – was hurt when lightning struck the aircraft and traveled through the cord to the worker. Luckily for him, the charge was too strong for the cord, which disintegrated sparing him from the full impact of the lightning.
Others, of course, have not been so lucky.
So a delay is the safest course of action. And on this particular flight, I still made my connection.