by Captain Joe
Today’s topic is another classic passenger question.
We’re gonna talk about the static wicks you can see from your passenger window.
As the airplane passes through clouds and due to the friction of the air the plane hull gets charged with electrons. The static electricity has the tendency to accumulate at sharp edges and peaky objects.
Similar as if you would walk across a velour carpet, due to the friction of your shoes with the carpet the electrons get picked up and your body is statically charged with electricity.
And we’ve all had the experience as you touch a metallic object or someone with a different static load and you get that little electric shock.
The problem is that radio and navigation antennas on an airplane are fairly edgy and peaky meaning that the electrons would accumulate there and create a nasty static noise making communication barely understandable and the navigation can also be jeopardized by the magnetic field created by the static electricity.
Therefore airplane manufacturers came up with an easy solution by installing little static wicks at the most prominent sharp edges like ailerons, flap track fairings, rudders and elevators, so that the electrons have an easier way of discharging from the plane without disturbing the radio and navigation antennas.