Planes avoid flying through ash clouds after 1982 incident
Around 100,000 residents living near the active volcano in Bali have been ordered to evacuate and the airport has been closed, with hundreds of flights disrupted and around 60,000 passengers affected, after Mount Agung sent ash spewing into the sky yesterday.
Volcanic eruptions can be a threat to aircraft, as the crew and 263 passengers of British Airways flight 009 found out on June 24, 1982.
Their plane was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Perth when its engines shut down.
At the time, the pilots had no idea what was the cause.
They would find out only later that the engines had been clogged after the plane flew through a cloud of volcanic ash, caused by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, a volcano 80km south-east of the West Java provincial capital, Bandung.
Those on board had noticed a pungent smell, and the pilots saw the cockpit windscreens were ablaze with a discharge of static electricity, otherwise known as St Elmo's fire.
The four Rolls Royce engines eventually failed, causing oxygen masks to drop as the plane turned into a glider.
From 37,000 feet, the plane descended to 12,000 feet before the pilots were able to restart the engines and eventually make an emergency landing in Jakarta.
The BBC reported that the findings from an investigation were eventually incorporated into a report on the dangers of volcanic ash to aircraft.
Mr Abbas Ismail, course manager for the diploma in aviation management and services at Temasek Polytechnic, is aware of the incident.
He told The New Paper yesterday: "Regular Primary Radar cannot detect the ash due to the absence of moisture.
"The Airborne Weather Radar, which works on the same principle, similarly may not identify it, and pilots may not see fine ash from the flight deck regardless of time of day."
He said all airlines today will avoid flying through ash clouds.
In 2010, the eruptions of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull caused a number of airports in Europe to shut down for a week, with some 10 million passengers affected.
The Straits Times reported that the incident could have cost Singapore Airlines losses of up to $10 million a day.
FOR MORE, SEE 59,000 travellers stranded in Bali as Mt Agung erupts