On June 24, 1982, the devastating effect of an ash cloud took the crew of British airways jet completely by surprise. Mount “Galangan” on the island of Java has erupted, but no warnings have been issued to pilots. When the 747 flies into the cloud collides with volcanic ash particles inside. The friction creates a bright shimmering glow on the windscreen. Passengers aboard the flight also see a strange glow around the plane`s engines. Smoke begins to see into the cabin around. Volcanic ash has been sucked into the aircraft`s ventilation system. With ash particles cloud in the cabin and the aircraft up. The volcanic cloud deals It`s most deadly blow. The ash has snuffed out one of the jet`s four massive engines.
“The other three just went out almost immediately, that`s when it began to be a serious emergency”
The 747 is suddenly powerless and it`s quickly falling to the sea. Starting the engines has become the crew`s only priority, but volcanic ash is making that task impossible.
“The temperature in the combustion chamber where this ash flowing through around 2000 degrees centigrade and so volcanic ash, we know, melts at about 3000, 4000 degrees. The volcanic ash transforms into molten goo within jet engines. The material blocks key air passages and cause that the engines to surge and shut down.”
Then with just 12000 feet separating British Airways flight 009 from the ocean engine №4 rose to life.
“Engine 3 back online. I can`t believe it, engines 1 and 2 both back online”
“ came out of volcanic ash, and the engines were not running remember, so everything cool down, it was enough for this stuff to break off and allow the engines to restart.”
British Airways flight 009 landed safely. No one was injured and important lesson was learned.
1) What natural phenomenon resulted in an emergency situation for the British Airways flight?
It was volcanic eruption. Namely Mount “Galangan” on the island of Java erupted.
Did the pilots receive any warnings about a possible problem?
No warnings were issued to pilots. Had the pilots been informed they might have changed their route.
2) What symptoms did the pilots have in the cockpit?
The pilots could see shimmering glow on the windscreen.
Did passengers have the same symptoms in the cabin?
Passengers could see the same glow around the plane`s engines.
3) How did the situation develop?
The cabin was filled with smoke because volcanic ash had been sucked into the aircraft`s ventilation system.
Was ash in the cabin the worst problem for the flight?
Unfortunately not! All four engines flamed out one after the other and a huge Boeing 747 having lost the thrust turned into a glider.
4) What procedure was performed by the crew in the emergency situation?
They were trying to restart the engines.
What would you do in case of a similar problem?
If I were a captain facing a similar problem first of all I would declare an emergency, then I would charge a co-pilot to keep an eye on airspeed and maintain an aircraft airborne as long as possible to give me a chance to restart the engines and cope with emergency situation.
5) Why was re-starting the engines impossible?
Because the temperature in the combustion chamber was high enough to melt volcanic ash. This substance blocked key air passages causing the engine to surge and shut down.
6) When and how did the pilots manage to solve the problem?
The pilots had nothing to do but restart the engines again and again. When they were 12000 feet from the ocean they managed to restart the engines.
What allowed them to re-start the engines?
Since they were out of volcanic ash, and the engines were not running, so everything cooled down, it was enough for this substance to break off and allow the engines to restart.
7) How was the flight completed?
British Airways flight 009 landed safely.
Were there any fatalities or injuries on landing?
No one was injured.
8) What lesson was learned after that emergency situation?
Incident revealed the hazard of volcanic ash for aviation. It can quickly cause significant wear to propellers and turbocompressor blades, scratch cockpit windows, impairing visibility.
What measures were taken to prevent similar situations in the future?
The aviation industry decided to set up Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAACs) which is responsible for coordination and distribution of information on atmospheric volcanic ash clouds that may endanger aviation.
9) What other natural phenomena that can affect flight safety do you know?
Bird activity can constitute a serious hazard to flight safety.
What problems can they lead to?
Most bird strikes do not result in any aircraft damage. Nevertheless some of them have led to serious accidents. Bird strikes may result in penetration of flight deck windscreens, damage to control surfaces and other aircraft structures. But the most common hazard is bird ingestion by the engines. This can be accompanied by thuds, vibration, engine surge and abnormal engine readings, such as high exhaust gas temperature or engine parameter fluctuations.
Can you think of any examples?
US Airways Flight 1549. An Airbus A320 piloted by Captain Chesley made an unpowered emergency water landing in the Hudson River after multiple bird strikes caused both jet engines to fail. All 155 occupants, the passengers and crew, were successfully evacuated from the partially submerged aircraft. The incident came to be known as the “Miracle on the Hudson”.