One of the big engineering questions with the Boeing Dreamliner was how to provide lightning strike protection in a plastic-bodied aircraft. Composites have up to 1,000 times less electrical conductivity than aluminum, increasing the potential for damage
The average airliner is struck by lightning once or twice a year. Boeing added conductive material to the composites to provide a pathway for lightning strikes. The added weight, especially on the wing where fuel is stored, was one of the factors that pushed the Dreamliner above its target weight.
The Dreamliner successfully endured its first lightning strike in a test flight last year. But Boeing is exploring a new materials’ solution to protect composite-bodied aircraft from lightning strikes, according to Boeing’s Andy Harber, who made the comment in a question-and-answer session following a presentation at AeroCon in Anaheim, CA last week. Harber, who is senior project manager-design engineering at Boeing, did not provide any specifics.