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St Elmo's Fire

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Article Information
Category: Weather Weather
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
Content control: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
Tag(s) Weather Phenomena


A visible luminous electrical discharge observed around parts of an aircraft when the electrical charge on the aircraft becomes sufficiently intense. Similar in nature to the glow from a neon tube, and often observed as brushlike fiery jets extending from the tip of an aerial, a wing, propeller, windscreen or other part of an aircraft.


St. Elmo's Fire occurs when the atmosphere becomes charged and an electrical potential strong enough to cause a discharge (plasma) is created between an object and the air around it. This can happen to an aircraft flying through heavily charged skies. St Elmo's Fire is usually bluish or violet in colour but can also have a greenish tinge.

While not a hazard in itself, St Elmo's Fire is an indication of Thunderstorm activity and may be a precursor to a Lightning strike.

Apparently, St. Elmo's Fire can sometimes be heard "singing" on the aircraft's radio, a frying or hissing sound running up and down the musical scale.

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