Laudamotion A320 Suffers Multiple Lightning Strikes On Approach

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Yesterday a Laudamotion Airbus A320-200 was hit by multiple lightning strikes just before landing at Vienna International Airport. The aircraft, which was flying from Sofia, suffered damage as a result of the lightning strikes and had to be temporarily taken out of service after landing.

Laudamotion Airbus A320
One of Laudamotion’s Airbus A320s was hit by lightning yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

On 21 February, passengers aboard Laudamotion flight OE-183 were given a fright as their aircraft was hit by a number of lightning strikes just before landing. The aircraft involved in the incident was a 12-year-old Airbus A320-200 registered OE-IHD.

What happened?

According to reports by The Aviation Herald, flight OE-183 was flying from Sofia and preparing to land at Vienna International Airport’s runway 29 when it encountered a thunderstorm. The aircraft was first hit by hail and then shortly afterwards by multiple lightning strikes.

Although the aircraft was able to land safely without additional damage or injuries to passengers, a subsequent inspection on the ground revealed substantial damage to some key navigation system components. Alongside lightning damage, the aircraft’s weather radar was knocked out of action due to hail damage sustained by the radome.

Laudamotion’s recent fine

While yesterday’s incident was largely unavoidable due to the rapid onset of the thunderstorm, Laudamotion recently received a fine from the German state of Hesse. According to Hessenschau.de, the state of Hesse handed Laudamotion a fine totalling 272,000 Euros for repeated late landings at Frankfurt Airport during the summer of 2018.

A320 from Lauda at Faro apron
The aircraft involved in the incident suffered damage to its weather radar. Photo: Raffindiair via Wikimedia Commons

In total Laudamotion is said to have landed 68 separate flights across summer 2018 after the 11 pm cut-off time for evening flights. Usually, fines will not be issued to airlines landing after 11 pm, as long as the reason for the delay was outside of the airline’s control, for example in the event of a thunderstorm or lightning strike. But Laudamotion was clearly operating flights late on a regular basis, hence Hessian Transport Minister Tarek Al-Wazir’s claim that Laudamotion did not take significant precautions to avoid delays.

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Ryanair’s Austrian subsidiary

Laudamotion is currently a subsidiary of Ryanair Holdings, which owns 75% of the company. But the Irish Aviation giant only acquired its controlling stake in Laudamotion back in 2018. Before this, the airline was owned by Austrian Formula One driver Niki Lauda, hence the airline’s brand name. Niki Lauda was actually a bit of a serial aviation entrepreneur, setting up three separate airlines over the years. Laudamotion was Lauda’s third venture into the world of commercial aviation, the first two being Lauda Air and Niki.

Lauda Air Boeing 767-300; OE-LAU@SZG, August 1990/ DSM
Niki Lauda founded three different airlines. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Lauda Air commenced operations back in 1985, staying in business an impressive 28 years until it was merged into Austrian Airlines in 2013. Lauda’s second airline venture was Niki, which he founded in 2003. Niki also enjoyed success for 14 years until December 2017 when the airline ceased operations. Laudamotion actually took a number of Niki’s Airbus A320s and Airbus A321s after it ceased operations, some of them remaining in service until last year.

Simple Flying has reached out to Laudamotion with a request for comment on yesterday’s incident. The airline has not yet been able to respond, but we will update this article once we receive more information.

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