If you‘re not so much into aviation or technology in general, while flying you notice many little details of the plane that you don‘t know the purpose of. For example, have you noticed that at the trailing edge of every wing there are some weird little rods sticking out? While walking around the plane you might have noticed that there are rods like this on the plane‘s tail too. Why? What do they do?

These are static wicks – they allow electrons with negative charge to dissipate from the airplane’s body. Dennis N., Wikimedia

Some guess those rods are some kind of antennas and they really do look like they could be. However, antennas are situated on the underbody of the plane instead. Those little things you see are actually static dischargers, often known as static wicks. And you have some on your body also.

When you walk across the carpet, you get charged with negative electrons. And then a single touch to something or someone may cause a little electric shock. In fact, in dark you can even see it. This happens because your negative electrons have to equalize with whatever you are touching. Sharp points on your body, such as fingers (or nose, for that matter) are perfect for this negative charge to dissipate from.

Large airplanes fly through the clouds and are constantly rubbing against some particles in the air. Naturally, they get this negative charge also, which can cause a variety of problems, such as poor radio communication or imperfect function of navigation equipment. It is because radio antennas are perfect spots for these negative electrons to collect.

Solution – many little sharp points on the airplane that provide a way for these negative electrons to dissipate. Works well – this negative charge is just given back to the surroundings of the airplane. This explanation is provided by the creator of the YouTube channel Captain Joe and you should check this video out, because it gives a more detailed explanation of how it works:

Captain Joe has been featured in Nodum.org a couple times before. Do you know what those little loops on the wings of the plane are? And what do those numbers mean on the end of every runway in the world?

Coming back to static wicks, you should watch them if you’re flying at night in close proximity or in a thunderstorm – you might notice sparks flying off of them if you’re lucky.


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