Volcanic Ash and Aviation Safety

Posted by on Friday, September 23, 2016

Plumes of volcanic ash near active volcanoes are an aviation safety hazard.

Volcanic ash is hard and abrasive, and can quickly cause significant wear to propellers and turbocompressor blades, and scratch cockpit windows, impairing visibility.

The ash contaminates fuel and water systems, can jam gears, and make engines flameout.

Its particles have low melting point, so they melt in the combustion chamber and the ceramic mass then sticks to turbine blades, fuel nozzles, and combustors—which can lead to total engine failure.

Ash can also contaminate the cabin and damage avionics.

In 1982, British Airways Flight 9 flew through an ash cloud, lost power from all four engines, and descended from 11,000 m to only 4,100 m before the flight crew managed to restart the engines. A similar incident occurred in 1989 to KLM Flight 867.

In 1991, the aviation industry decided to set up Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAACs) for liaison between meteorologists, volcanologists, and the aviation industry.



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