Strange days for us in Europe. We can’t see planes in the sky. Trains, buses and other transportation networks are overloaded, people got stuck at airports and businesses loose a lot of money due to this strange phenomenon. This is something that never happened in the history of commercial aviation. Why are these ash clouds so dangerous that it basically collapsed European aviation? Is it just a hype or is it a real fear?
The story begins in 1982, when a Boeing 747 (jumbo) took off from Malaysia and headed to Perth, Autralia. When the jet passed by Java, where a volcano erupted earlier, all four engines stopped, so the pilot had to glide. At 12 000 feet he could restart the engines and managed to land safely in Jakarta, although one of the engines failed again later on the ground. According to investigators at was the volcanic ash that clogged the engines for some time.
Although this was the only incident caused by volcanic ash, obviously aviation experts were afraid to put flights at risk, therefore aviation authorities decided to close down all affected European airports.
You can read the whole story with explanations on BBC Online.
Although the sky seems nice and blue, and I am still not convinced that such a light concentration of ash would really harm jet engines, I guess everybody understands that it is better not to risk people’s life. It is rather surprising for me that there is noone who could answer this question and help aviation authorities in bringing the right decisions.
I would be grateful if you shared your opinions with us in a comment.