F-35 Lightning: Airmen Involved in Strike While Working on Eglin Flight Line

F-35As taxi down the runway at Hill AFB, Utah, on Aug. 8, 2018. Air Force photo by Paul Holcomb.

Two airmen from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, were involved in “a nearby indirect lightning strike” on Nov. 7 while working on an F-35 at Eglin AFB, Fla., 53rd Wing public affairs chief Maj. Ashley Conner told Air Force Magazine Thursday.

The airmen were clearing the flight line when the incident occurred, she said, explaining that this process is normally undertaken after lightning is spotted “or lightning warnings are issued.”

“One airman was closing an F-35 canopy and the other airman was winding up a grounding wire,” Conner explained.

While the lightning strike—whose precise location is still unknown—didn’t directly hit the airmen, they experienced dizziness and nausea afterwards, she said. The airmen were checked out at the base’s emergency room, but were not injured. The F-35s also escaped without damage.

Electrical current from a lightning strike can indirectly travel to a person’s body if they make “contact with an electrified object or the ground, which act as conductors for a nearby lightning strike,” according to an article published by the Arrhythmia & Electrophysiology Review, a cardiology journal, detailing how these meterological events can affect the human heart.

The Utah-based squadron is at Eglin to take part in Combat Hammer, a quarterly exercise hosted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron in which airmen evaluate whether “precision-guided air-to-ground weapons” are reliable, maintainable, sustainable, and accurate.