In my world, both lighter- and heavier-than-air craft exist and are rather useful devices.

However, problems tend to occur when confronted with storms. Steering through a storm is not a problem in this question, but whether the craft survives it or not is an entirely different question.

The three problems are as follows:

  • Strong winds put much stress on the craft
  • Rain may weaken the craft further
  • Lightning will have devastating effects

How can the craft be constructed to withstand a strong gale (Beaufort scale 9) without being fully cast in metal?

The craft in my world are primarily constructed of light wood and canvas, though other materials such as basic rubber, various metals and/or cellulose.

Having the aircraft made with metal (as in more modern craft, although as I understand they are more aluminium and glass fibre than anything else) would likely increase the strength of the craft, especially against lightning, but at the cost of manoeuvrability and weight, making the craft unflyable with the weak motors of the time.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Don't neglect the hazards of 1) high and low pressure pockets accompanying the storm, which can cause turbulence and loss of control, and 2) low visibility from fog, clouds, rain, etc. which - in the absence of modern instruments and sometimes even then - renders flying acutely hazardous. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jun 20, 2019 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ The same way aircraft are built on our world? You seem to be missing information on why these things are problems for your aircraft, and why earth solutions don't apply $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Jun 20, 2019 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ You haven't specified -- are these lighter than air dirigibles (like early Zeppelins), or heavier than air craft (like, say, some of the weird stuff that was proposed before the Wright brothers flew? $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 20, 2019 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ Modern aircraft use a lot of non-metallic strctural elements. Before the 1930s aircraft were made almost completely out of non-metallic materials. And they did carry passengers, and mail, and cargo and bombs. By the way, storms continue to be best avoided by large aircraft and definitively to be avoided by small aircraft... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 20, 2019 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence A very fair point, but I think that would make the question rather broad. I shall keep it in mind. $\endgroup$ Jun 20, 2019 at 14:31

2 Answers 2


Simple version: you can't.

Modern aircraft are prohibited by regulation from flying into thunderstorms, and that's with more than a century of real world experience. The only exception that's made that I'm aware of is military aircraft that fly through the eye wall of hurricanes to measure the barometric pressures and wind speeds at altitude -- important data for forecasting the intensity of the storm as it threatens surface ships (far sturdier than anything light enough to fly) and buildings (sturdier and heavier yet). Yet, the most intense hurricane core ever recorded has far less turbulence than a common thunderstorm, never mind the supercells that produce tornadoes.

The only aircraft that might reasonably survive the turbulence inside a thunder storm cloud is one that's so small the wind can't produce an appreciable velocity shear across its length or span -- and that won't carry cargo or crew (we're talking model or drone size).

Bottom line, if it's light enough to fly (even with modern engines) and big enough to carry useful crew, passenger, or cargo loads, you cannot make it storm proof by any means available to present-day technology.


Climb higher.

The easiest (for certain values of 'easy') solution is to get above the weather. Fifty thousand feet is high enough to avoid most (but not quite all) weather.

Hope the crew brought some oxygen.


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