Lightning Direct Effects

RTCA DO-160 – Section 23.0 – Lightning Direct Effects


The tests described in this section are intended to determine the ability of externally mounted equipment to withstand the direct effects of a lightning strike.
The term “externally mounted equipment” refers to all equipment mounted externally to the main skin of the aircraft and includes all such equipment that is covered only by a dielectric skin or fairing that is an integral part of the equipment.
It also includes connecting cables and associated terminal equipment furnished by the equipment manufacturer as a part of the equipment.
The tests described herein specifically exclude the effects on the tested equipment of voltages and currents induced into the externally mounted equipment and its associated circuitry by means of magnetic or electric field coupling.
Examples of equipment covered by this section are antennae, exterior lights, air data probes, external sensors, and anti-ice and de-ice equipment which are mounted external to the structure (i.e. electrically heated anti-ice boots), magnetic fluid level indicators, fuel filler caps and drain valves.
Examples of equipment typically not covered by this section are equipment that are an integral part of the aircraft structure (i.e., heated or unheated windshields, electrically de-iced leading edges where the de-ice system is an integral part of the leading edge structure or is enclosed by the leading edge structure), and externally mounted equipment that is protected by aircraft nose radomes or dielectric coverings which are specific to the aircraft structure and are not integral with the equipment itself.
Components such as these typically are to be addressed and/or tested as a part of the airframe lightning certification program specified by the aircraft manufacturer, or by other test method(s) appropriate to the component being qualified.
Two types of direct effects tests are contained in the section: High voltage strike attachment tests and high current physical damage tests. The high voltage strike attachment test is used to determine likely lightning attachment locations on the test object. The high current physical damage test is used to determine the damage that may occur to the test object during a lightning channel attachment to or near the test object.
The high current physical damage test can be used to assess:
  • Arc root damage
  • Hot spot formation
  • Melt-through behavior
  • Adequacy of protection
  • Behavior of joints (sparking and damage)
  • Level of voltage and current induced on electrical conductors interfacing with test object
Typically, high voltage strike attachment tests are performed first to determine the likely lightning attachment locations on the test object. The high current physical damage test is then applied to an attachment location identified during the high voltage testing. Test objects that do not have a dielectric covering may not require high strike voltage attachment tests prior to the high current testing if the likely lightning attachment points can be identified. In such cases the test plan shall define the location on the test object where the high current is to be applied.
Normally the equipment will not be powered up or operating during the tests described herein. In situations where a power-on condition could change the susceptibility of the equipment to the direct effects of lightning, the equipment should be powered up or, alternatively, a means employed to simulate the powered up condition. The need for power or a simulated power condition shall be defined in the test plan.
In some situations it is necessary to evaluate the potential interactions of the test object with other aircraft systems during a lightning attachment.
Two types of interactions commonly evaluated are:
  • The characteristics of voltages that are directly injected into the test object wiring and passed along to other aircraft electrical/electronic systems, and
  • The potential for arcs/sparks from a test object located in a fuel vapor area.
This section provides procedures for detecting arcing and sparking which may ignite a 200 microjoule sensitive fuel mixture and measuring directly injected voltages onto the test object wiring. The need for these procedures shall be defined in the test plan.


DO-160 is a standard for environmental test on avionics equipment published by RTCA, the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics. The DO 160 G was amended and now all guideline inside it are replaced by the DO 357.
On our website you can find only some abstracts of the document, for the full text of the guideline you have to purchased it from RTCA.
We remember you that now DO 160 G cannot be read without DO 357.
If you need any interpretation regarding the text of such standard, please contact CELAB.
CELAB is the only Italian (and one of the few European) member of the RTCA Special Committee 135, the commettee for devolpment of DO 160 G.


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