Collision course with a hang glider
Approach Control told us there was air traffic at our 10 to 11 o'clock, 400ft below us and not in communication with air traffic control. It was going to pass from our left to right and our paths were going to cross. I asked the first officer to ask for a left deviation, which was approved, and we turned 10 to 15 degrees to the left.
On the new heading, I thought I saw additional traffic at our 12 o’clock. I asked the first officer if he saw anything, and he replied, “No.” I looked at the TCAS display and no traffic was shown there either. I continued to look… I started to make something out and said, “It looks like a big bird.” The first officer replied, “Yes, I see something too.” About that time, the object came into focus as it made a left bank. I could tell then that it was a hang glider and we were on a collision course at a high-closure rate.
I immediately disconnected the autopilot and made a descending right turn. The hang glider passed off our left wing within 500ft horizontal and at our altitude. We informed ATC of the near miss and they were just as surprised as we were to hear of a glider at that altitude.
St. Elmo’s power surge
During climb out... we were in heavy rain and massive St. Elmo’s fire, lots of lightning and moderate chop/turbulence. After several minutes of this there was a strong burning smell in the cockpit.
The smell got stronger, then my altimeter failed... We then got a "rudder ratio" and "mach speed trim" warning on the EICAS [Engine Instrument and Crew Alerting System]... More electrical instruments seemed to be failing or giving false information on my side and the problem was spreading to the co-pilot’s side. There were more EICAS warnings than we could read. Then the autopilot did a pitch up of over 10 degrees, I disconnected the autopilot. We declared an emergency to return to the airport. The problem [was], the radios seemed to have failed. On standby instruments, I slowly turned back.
After repeated calls, the radio started to work and an emergency was officially declared. During this time, instruments were starting to come back, one by one. The burning smell was also going away. All warnings started to go away and everything worked normally. We landed overweight, but the landing was extremely smooth on a very wet runway.