Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ash in the sky

Just how reliable are the warnings that flying is dangerous because of the black cloud from Iceland? I read this in today's Independent on Sunday:

"KLM, the Dutch subsidiary of Air France, says it has flown a plane through the cloud of volcanic ash covering Europe without suffering any damage. KLM carried out a test flight above Dutch air space yesterday. It says initial inspections afterward showed no damage or irregularities from the ash in the air that has led to a ban on air travel over much of Europe since Friday."

Bloggers have suggested that the ban might be an over-reaction from discredited meteorologists.

I picked up this from one of them:

"Today I made a flight over Europe with a twin engine plane, not a jet but a twin prop. Before take off I replaced the air filters and sprayed them with oil to be sure any particle would stick. I don’t tell you from which airport I departed but I flew over the eastern parts of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, no traffic, no worries. The flight levels were between 2500 and 18000 ft. I flew under VFR conditions during the entire flight without any problems.

When I returned I took out the air filters, put them in a plastic bag and send them to a friend of mine for analysis. Yes, I am sure I scooped up some particles but I have seen much worse with Sahara dust clogged filters in the past!"

However, a light plane crashed a few miles north of here at 5.20 pm yesterday and two people were killed. I hear from friends at church that the pilot was Richard Wheeler, a member at Christ Church Westbourne, returning from Spring Harvest. An unconfirmed rumor suggests that the passenger was a local surgeon, a member of the same church. There is only one report so far, picked up by the BBC and the Guardian and no more details are given. It was thought that the volcano had nothing to do with it, but we must wait for a report from Air Accident Investigators.

Added later: It is confirmed. The passenger in the plane was Shorland Hosking, a surgeon from Poole. He had once been a member of my church, and I knew him.


Barry Lambert said...

On the other hand there is reported on Wikipedia:
On 15 April, five Finnish Air Force F-18 fighter jets on exercise flew into the ash cloud in northern Finland. Volcanic dust was found on the engines of three of the aircraft and a further inspection revealed extensive damage by melted glass deposits inside the combustion chamber of one of the engines. The engines were sent for disassembly and overhaul. As a result all unnecessary military flights were cancelled except for identification flights to enforce sovereign airspace. Meanwhile a BAE Hawk trainer with special equipment to sample the volcanic dust was being flown from the 41st squadron in Kauhava.[

Laurent said...

Some interesting background information on the subject can be found on Wikipedia at

Terry Hamblin said...

Undoubtedly volcanic ash can damage aero engines. It is all a matter of degree. No-one is thinking of flying directly into the volcanic plume.