Archives On The Air 97: Ball's Lightning—Albert C. Ball Papers

Jan 22, 2019

In 1937, pilot Albert Ball flew a plane into a storm to test a theory on airplane radio interference.

So, what happened?

Audio transcript: Captain ball’s theories reached the top officials at the airline and the company president authorized use of the flying laboratory. Captain ball recalls “we flew every day for almost three months looking for storm fronts, the rougher the better, and we proved that the metal airplane itself generated electrical charges in certain cloud formations. And those charges then leaked off the wing and tail surfaces, causing the static, but we found that a rope like cable attached to the trailing edges of the wings discharged the static without crackling in the earphones or drowning out radio beams.

Learn more aviation history at UW's American Heritage Center.