IAA Website - Thursday, July 29, 2021 5:18 AM

Dangers of Volcanic Ash

Safety is the IAA's number one priority and Ireland has one of the world’s best records for aviation safety. It is the IAA’s role to oversee the safety of Irish airspace and we follow international guidance on volcanic ash from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The engines of jet aircraft may be damaged by volcanic ash and there are comprehensive safety arrangements in place to ensure the highest levels of safety, whilst minimising any disruption.

Previous incidents highlight the dangers of high density ash to aircraft. Examples can be seen in the following incidents:

1982: British Airways Boeing 747 from London Heathrow to Auckland, New Zealand

The aircraft flew into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung south east of Jakarta in Indonesia, resulting in the failure of all four engines. It was able to glide far enough to exit the ash cloud and restart its engines, safely diverting to Jakarta Airport.

1989: KLM Boeing 747 from Amsterdam to Anchorage International Airport, Alaska

This flight was descending into Anchorage International Airport in Alaska, when all four engines failed. The aircraft, which was less than six months old, flew through a thick cloud of volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt, which had erupted the day before. The crew performed the engine restart procedure a number of times before it was successful, eventually landing the plane safely.

Click here to see the effects of volcanic ash on jet engines in the BBC's Bang Goes the Theory programme.

EASA Safety Information Bulletin on Flight in Airspace with Volcanic Ash Contamination

In 2015, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) on flight in airspace with volcanic ash contamination. The recommendations in this revised EASA SIB are based on the progress that has been made in reviewing and discussing the volcanic ash airspace contamination threat with the associations from the manufacturing industry, operators, the scientific community, the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), the Air Traffic Management Service Providers and Airworthiness Authorities in the International Civil Aviation Organization International Volcanic Ash Task Force (ICAO IVATF).

Click here to read the SIB.