Passengers on Pacific Coastal Airlines' last flight into Powell River on Tuesday, March 7, received the scare of their lives when lightning struck the plane during its final approach into Powell River Airport.
As the aircraft, scheduled for a 7:10 pm arrival, began its descent, it was struck by a lightning bolt, causing a explosion that was heard throughout the Powell River area.
"We were sort of rocking and rolling all over the place and all of a sudden there was a loud explosion in the sky and the whole cabin of the plane lit up in a big, brilliant orange flash," said passenger and Powell River resident Allison Milan. "Everyone sat there and stared at each other, and the pilot didn't come on right away. When he came on he said we had been hit with lightning, but that everything was okay and they would get us down safe and sound."
The plane landed safely with no injuries to any of the passengers or crew, according to Pacific Coastal president Quentin Smith. Nine passengers and two crew members were on the plane. The lightning left a small, approximately one-inch hole located on the right hand elevator control panel.
Another passenger and local resident who was on the plane, Marc Butula, commended the pilot and crew for their professional and calm demeanour during the frightening incident.
"When the lighting hit the nose of the plane, it made a huge spark and the pilots didn't even flinch. They were super calm," said Butula, "but the people in the plane were definitely scared."
Smith said the plane ended up landing eight minutes late. The captain was one of the airlines' most experience pilots, he said.
"The captain has been flying for over 40 years, probably 35-plus at Pacific Coastal," said Smith, "so I'm not surprised he handled it in a professional manner."
Lightning strikes to planes are rare, he said, and although they have happened before during Pacific Coastal's operation, the company's planes are equipped to deal with them.
"The aircraft are designed specifically to be able to absorb a lightning strike if it should happen," said Smith.
Pacific Coastal has now assessed the condition of the plane and has determined that it has no structural damage, according to a Pacific Coastal media release.
The aircraft was safety certified and released back into service on the morning after the lightning strike.