Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Togo : will president Faure Gnassingbe win a third 5-year term ?

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Controversy reigns 100 years after the Armenian genocide

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Migrant Deaths: Politicians Divided after Emergency EU Summit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The G-Word: Turkey and the Armenian Genocide

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

What will the new French healthcare bill change?

Read more

#TECH 24

Space Special: Happy Birthday, Hubble!

Read more

FOCUS

Video: Meeting Marseille's Armenian community

Read more

REPORTERS

Saving French soldiers' WWI trench carvings

Read more

ENCORE!

Armenia, 100 years on

Read more

Europe

Lessons from a flight through ash clouds

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-04-16

One might well wonder whether a little ash really necessitates grounding entire fleets of planes. But one legendary British pilot who contended with this foe of nature attests that volcanic ash is not merely dust in the wind.

Captain Eric Moody, a pilot, became something of a folk hero in his native England on June 24, 1982, when he flew a British Airways passenger plane to safety after running head-on into a volcanic ash cloud that originated from an erupting volcano in Java, Indonesia. The plane originated from Kuala Lumpur and was meant to land in Perth, but instead made an emergency landing in Indonesia.

He described the dramatic flight in an interview with Sky News, saying, “It was very frightening, all the engines stopped for 14 or 15 minutes and we didn’t know what was happening.”

Captain Moody broadcast a message to the passengers on his plane: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get it under control. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

The plane dropped 7900 metres; cabin pressure dropped. The plane attempted to land in Jakarta but it dipped dangerously close to the mountains.

According to an article published by the UK's Geological Society of the UK, the mixture of volcanic dust plus a hot engine is a bad one: “The temperature in the engines was high enough to melt finely powdered rock.”

That is precisely what happened to Captain Moody's jet – hence the failed engines. The windshield soon became peppered with dust, becoming opaque.

Despite the risk of hitting mountainous terrain, Captain Moody took his chance and blindly flew downward anyway until he touched ground near Jakarta, with no fatalities. Only days later did they learn that volcanic ash was the culprit.

The same Geological Society article explained the lesson of Moody’s story: “Obviously the best advice to any pilot about flying into ash plumes is "don't". Hence today’s disruption.”


 

Date created : 2010-04-15

COMMENT(S)