A Hawaiian Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu was forced to make an emergency landing after being struck by lightning. The flight was unable to even leave the state of Nevada before being hit, forcing the pilot to return to Las Vegas. The airliner moved slowly along the ground for 90 minutes at Harry Reid International Airport before taking flight, only to last 20 minutes in the air before being forced to land.
According to the National Weather Service, it’s not entirely uncommon for commercial airplanes to get struck by lightning, with one or two flights getting hit a year. The aircraft, an Airbus A330-200, took off from Las Vegas only to promptly circle back to the same location a few minutes later. The plane was set to make a six-hour trip to Daniel K. Inouye International in Honolulu, but the weather had other plans. The flight was diverted as it made its way safely back to where it initially departed from.
The airplane was carrying 278 passengers and 11 crew members. Data collected from flight-tracking websites such as FlightAware show that the plane left the gate as scheduled. After spending 20 minutes in the air, the plane was unable to reach California before making a return to Harry Reid International.
According to Boeing, lightning strikes aren’t usually a cause for concern. “Strikes to airplanes are relatively common but rarely result in a significant impact to the continued safe operation of the airplane,” the company said in a statement. However, out of caution for the airplane passengers and staff, the pilot decided to reroute back to Las Vegas to ensure that the plane was still in good condition.
The passengers aboard Hawaiian Airlines Flight 5 were terrified of their in-air experience. Those on the flight felt a sense of panic when the plane was struck, according to passenger Julie-Anna Bardon. “The scariest part for us was getting hit by lightning,” she said. “There were people on the flight that were crying.” Bardon revealed that she feared for her safety as the uncertainty of their situation escalated. Recounting the harrowing experience, she said, “We don’t know if the plane has structural damage, we don’t know if we’re gonna be able to land safely, there’s a lot of things we don’t know.”
A spokesperson for Hawaiian Airlines has confirmed that the flight returned to Las Vegas after being struck by lightning, adding that everyone on board was unharmed during the incident. In an effort to make up for the inconvenience, Hawaiian Airlines offered hotel accommodations and meals for everyone aboard the airliner. While the plane is being thoroughly inspected by airport crews, the passengers won’t be able to make it to Honolulu until later in the week during the plane’s rescheduled flight. Fortunately, modern airplanes are designed to be able to withstand being hit by lightning bolts with minimal damage. However, airlines still require pilots to land the plane so they can be properly inspected for damage. The pilot of Hawaiian Airlines Flight 5 followed protocol by rerouting and returning to Las Vegas.