SLIDESHOW: Lightning from Irma Strikes Hurricane Hunters Plane with News 5 Aboard

ATLANTIC OCEAN (WKRG) – The Hurricane Hunters of the U.S. Air Force Reserve at Keesler Air Force Base continue flying into the heart of Hurricane Irma to gather crucial scientific data before the storm makes landfall in Florida.

However upon landing back on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the pilots made a startling discovery. The plane’s nose was struck by lightning mid-flight, unbeknownst to the crew. Markings and chipped paint were visible on the front of the aircraft, along with hail damage on the propellers.

Engineers say metal channels along the nose – designed for this very purpose – carried the lightning’s electricity directly into the hull, where the energy was absorbed without incident. No one aboard was harmed, or even knew the plane had been struck by lightning.

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