Safety First - Why ash and aviation don't mix

Information on the dangers of volcanic ash.

Safety is always the most important consideration in aviation.  The UK has one of the world’s best safety records, secured by strict guidelines.  It is the CAA’s role to ensure that UK airspace is safe to travel in and we follow international guidance on ash from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Jet aircraft engines, in particular, may be damaged by volcanic ash. That’s why there are comprehensive safety arrangements in place to maintain high levels of public safety, whilst minimising any disruption.

Previous well documented incidents with aircraft and ash have shown how dangerous high density ash can be.  Two of the most serious incidents were:

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.

Aviation writer and pilot Ian Seager takes a closer look at the dangers of volcanic ash.

This video explain the safety risks for aircraft: