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Anyone experienced St Elmo's Fire?

CaptBuzzard

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I experienced it for the first time flying a C-402 early yesterday morning. I was in the clouds around 4am and it happened. What a killer experience.
 

airgator

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So what exactly did it look like? Did you hear strange sounds as it was occurring?
 

avbug

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Usually when I see it it's around 18,000' in a climb or descent. usually in dry air or low humidity, with ash or dust present. Often close to electrical activity, such as in the vicinity of embedded storms of thundercells.

Sometimes it creates a strong static hiss in the radio or ICS, sometimes not. It appears sometimes as a dancing glow of blue or green on the windscreen, and can be seen as sparks spraying from small protrusions and fiberglass/plastic parts. Sometimes surfaces glow, sometimes they have a "flame" that dances around, sometimes the outline of a part or area glows.

The effect can be quite beautiful to watch.
 

Beechnut

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I have seen it numerous times at night. Recently we saw it in the CRJ as we were going around some weather. It was the common purple haze around the front windscreen, but then was discharged every few seconds by bolts that were very bright and looked like lightning that branched from the top of the windscreen to the bottom. Very neat!


S.
 

buzzer

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Seen it many times. Several times on the 727 when it starts to get bad (entire windscreen webbed with miniture lightning), you would get one or even two large "spotlight lights" beam into space at a 50-60 deg. angle from the nose right in frot of you. You put your face up to the windscreen and just look up into space at the beam/beams pointing up. You have to slow down a little or put out some speed brakes to calm it down lest you have a static discharge that will scare the sh*t out of you. I had one of those once and a blue bolt went right down the isle and made for some green faced pax. It blinded all three of us in the cockpit and we thought an engine blew. Yes, all three of us said "Oh sh*t" at the same time.
 

Simon Says

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I have never seen it on the windscreen of the Saab, but I have seen it a number of times on the tip of the props. Which creats a glowing circle as the props spin. The passengers love it. The color is always blue. Does anybody have any other colors to report possibly on different types of aircraft.
 

TurboS7

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The other night we were flying fire fighters to Medford, Ore. We were somewhere in the midwest and the purser served us "lunch"(it was in the middle of the night). I put mine up on the dash as I was too busy doing nothing to eat. We got into some fairly good St. Elmo's, not bad I have seen a lot worse. But what was neat was that the little jags of lightning were coming out all around my lunch. I even called the purser back in to show him how we microwave our lunch's at night. I wish I had a video of it,it looked pretty neat.

THe neatest St. Elmo's is in a Lear. You get 4 beams of light off the nose and 8 more off the respective wing tanks. Then your radios go completly dead, the best St. Elmo's can be found at 410 to 450 in the vicinity of a tropical storm or hurricane.
 

TurboS7

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The only color I have ever seen was blue. The other night I was night fishing for muskie in Northern Wisc. About 1A.M. my wife wanted to go in for a potty break, then she decided to hang it up for the night as she was cold. So I dropped her off and went back out on the lake my self. I was just drift fishing with suckers(12 inches). The starts were out of this world, then I saw something that I have never seen before. Spending time in AK and Iceland I have seen the Northern Light a bunch of time. This time I saw something diffrent. The Northern Lights formed a "rainbow" and underneath it you could see the curvature of the earth. What was really weird was that you couldn't see any stars underneath the rainbow, like the earth's shadow blocked it all out. I went back to the house and woke up my oldest daughter who was sleeping out in the tent(23 year old Norweigian blond)she thought it was really cool too. You never get tired of seeing neat things in the universe, God did a good job of putting it together.
We used to fly the astronauts to Moscow years ago and I asked them if after they were in space did they have any questions about a God. They said no way, they said the view will make any agnostic a theistic person in no time.Once you have been up there you are never satified with the view from down here.
 
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OakRBust

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I am with Simon. It glows big blue circles around the propellors. I have had it in the Saab only about 5 times in 6+ years. Each time it dances blue patches along the windshield as well. The prop sure is a sight!!:D

Oak
 

414Flyer

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TurboS7 said:
The only color I have ever seen was blue. The other night I was night fishing for muskie in Northern Wisc. About 1A.M. my wife wanted to go in for a potty break, then she decided to hang it up for the night as she was cold. So I dropped her off and went back out on the lake my self. I was just drift fishing with suckers(12 inches). The starts were out of this world, then I saw something that I have never seen before. Spending time in AK and Iceland I have seen the Northern Light a bunch of time. This time I saw something diffrent. The Northern Lights formed a "rainbow" and underneath it you could see the curvature of the earth. What was really weird was that you couldn't see any stars underneath the rainbow, like the earth's shadow blocked it all out. I went back to the house and woke up my oldest daughter who was sleeping out in the tent(23 year old Norweigian blond)she hought it was really cool too.

Hey, you never told us you have a blonde 23 year old daughter :)

I have seen St Elmos several times, usually it was while flying thru dry snow, or ice particles. Sometimes I saw the purplish glow on the prop tips, and twice in a T-210, I saw it making that beam off of the OAT probe thru windscreen.

I did see it the other night while flying near some small storms in AZ too, probably getting enough static off of the precip and lighting going on.
 

Bustamove

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We used to see it a lot in the venerable A-6 Intruder. The flying chicken bone had a fuel probe sticking out of it's nose right in front of the windscreen (EA-6Bs are still in the Fleet with the same setup). A lot of nights you'd get the blue halo and lightning discharges off the probe's tip. It was usually about the size of a basketball but sometimes bigger and so bright you'd about want to put your visor down. It was great entertainment on a boring tanker mission but a litte more excitement than you need on a bombing run.
 

FastCargo

Is that the tanker?
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Should we be air refueling...

Had an interesting St Elmos fire story while a new guy in the B-1...

Night mission in South Dakota, with an air refueling. The A/R recepticle sits right in front of the pilots (about 6 feet). You can almost look down to see if the door is open or not. That night there was a lot of cirrus, lots of remnants of T-storms, about 2 miles vis within cloud...did I mention I was a brand new copilot on night checkout?

Anyway, after we get in formation with our tanker, we ease up to the boom, and at about 3 feet, the air between the receptable and the A/R boom tip lights up with multiple electric arcs! Looks like something out of a old sci-fi B movie. You can actually hear the bolts as they cycle between the aircraft. I kind of casually ask if we should continue...instructor says sure... Needless to say, I'm still here, so we didn't blow up or anything. Saw the effect before we connected, and right after disconnect... Amazing!

During the debrief, the instructor says that maybe we shouldn't have pressed the A/R after all. Well, NOW you make that decision (I thought that, didn't say it)!

Funny though, that's about the only time I've seen the effect...

Fly Safe!

FastCargo
 

JBHewlett

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This sounds interesting

This sounds interesting, but can someone please tell me what St. Elmo's Fire is? Any pictures of it?

J.
 

njcapt

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One time years ago, I was checking out a new Captain in a Chieftain - flying down the eastern side of Lake Michigan on a cold winter night through some high cirrus. We started to exhibit some St. Elmo's fire on the right windshield which, in this prehistoric model Navajo, had a plexiglass window on the right side. As the fire started to get really big, I pointed to the electrical phenomenon and said, "Hey, Mark, look at that". When my finger got to within four inches or so of the windshield, a HUGE frickin' lightning bolt arced from my finger to the surface of the window. I involuntarily yelled "F*** me", rudely waking up the passengers, as the shock totally deadened my arm up through my shoulder. The other pilot nearly pissd himself laughing at my misfortune. I wasn't as amused with the experience of providing a grounding path for 100,000 volts of electrical charge. My arm still felt numb when I went to sleep later that night.
 

nosewheel

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Seen it many times. The most awesome display was on the L-1011. The windows are like picture windows and its kind of like watching a big screen TV. If I'm not mistaken there the largest aircraft window made. I could be wrong though...I was wrong once before. The only bad thing about it was we were usually getting the crap beat out of us during the display. The other part of the show sometimes included a thirty foot long fireball shooting forward from the nose of the aircraft and rings of fire around the engine cowlings. It usually gets the passengers a little excited. The neatest thing I ever experienced was when the Co-Pilots front window delaminated at 350 at night while we were all half asleep. When the thing let go there was a very loud BANG !! then it shot a baseball size ball of fire at the FO's face from the lower part of the windscreen where it meets the glaresheild. WOW !! that really woke us up fast.We found out later that it happened when the crack in the windscreen when through the window heat strip and caused the high voltage fireball.The Co-Pilot was quite OK just a little shooken for a few beers.:confused: :p :D
 

avbug

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Usually blue, sometimes green, sometimes yellowish, sometimes white or whitish. I've never had a fireball roll down the interior or spark at me, but I'd sure like to see it.
 

mckpickle

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Had it on rare occasions in the ATR. Mostly COLD winter nights flying high with some really dry snow. Then One time Me and another guy were taking a ATR 72 across the pond to germany. We were to stop in Goose Bay for a final tank up then go direct across the pond at 25,000ft. About 200 miles before goose bay the other guys points at my window and says look. I gave the obligitory "cool" as I noticed the small blue light flashes, and went back to some chart I was reading. Then I thought wait, we are in the clear, no snow and its a nice night, so why..................................................... As i look up the color had changed from irridecent blue to yellow and red as we realized the heating element was arcing. As we reached up to turn it off it sounded like someone let loose a shotgun as the whole window shattered. Thank god it was only the outer pane of glass which we were later told was not structural. We followed the QRH, depresurized and went down to 9000ft. Had it happened mid way over the atlantic......bubye.
 

Simon Says

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JB Hewlett

St. Elmos Fire is the name of the movie that mysteriously plays on the windscreen of the aircraft. Good flick, but distracting during flight.
 

Typhoon1244

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Saw it once or twice in the Brasilia. The CRJ will turn out an impressive display climbing through high clouds.

It was pretty interesting for the first couple of minutes...then it got kind of annoying. (Maybe the "magic" is starting to wear off me...)
 
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