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Lightning-zapped plane flies 3,000 miles with a hole in its nose

Technically Incorrect: An Icelandair flight is struck by lightning, but continues its journey from Iceland to Denver. The pilots had no idea of the damage.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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That's quite some hole in a 757. 9 News Denver screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Once, while landing at JFK, a United 757 I was in was struck by lightning.

The plane rolled and everyone screamed, but we landed safely. As we came to the gate, the pilot said: "In case anyone wondered, we were struck by lightning. But please don't worry, the plane only sustained minor damage."

Ah, that's all right then.

I wonder, therefore, what passengers on an Icelandair 757 felt when their flight from Reykjavik to Denver was jolted and bolted soon after it took off Tuesday evening.

It continued on its 3,740-mile journey. When the passengers got off, they realized an interesting thing. The plane had a rather prominent hole in its nose. As 9 News in Denver reports, the plane just kept on going, so some passengers wondered just how safe the flight had been.

The aviation expert for 9 News, Greg Feith, said that the flight should have turned around. He said that the pilots risked structural failure around the nose of the plane.

On the other hand, aviation professor Jeff Price told the Denver Post that planes are quite able to withstand such strikes.

I have contacted Icelandair to ask why the pilots chose not to turn around and whether the plane was flown recklessly. I will update, should I hear.

The airline told Fox 31 in Denver that as the instrumentation and handling of the plane were normal, the flight continued on its way. Its statement added: "Lightning strikes are common and protocol was followed. There was no cause for further concern and the flight landed without issue. This aircraft was replaced upon landing and is being evaluated."

But what if that hole had become bigger somewhere over the ocean? And what if the pilots had realized that there was a substantial cavity in their plane's nose? (They reportedly had no idea.)

The passengers, of course, were left to marvel and shiver at what had happened. One of them was Nathan Maxwell, who was returning from a tour with his band, the Bunny Gang.

He told the New York Daily News: "I thought for sure we would make an emergency landing, but what do I know? When you're in that situation, what else could you do but trust?"

Quite.