Anyone who moderate travel experience has heard all sorts of delay explanations announced. The most common delays and cancellations are simply “weather” or “mechanical” … but today and for the next few days one of the more rare natural disaster delays and cancellations reasons will be give to passengers throughout Europe … Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupting. This is the volcano’s second eruption in two months … and its first series of eruptions in 200 years … is an estimated 20-times more powerful than the eruption last month.
As of today the ash clouds filling in the skies from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano has spread ash high into the air and is traveling slowly with the winds. Ash in the skies is dangerous to aircraft as it not only limits visibility, but it can also cause damage to aircraft engines, in some cases shutting down an aircraft’s engine.
On 15-December-1989, KLM Flight 867, a Boeing 747-406M, encountered a volcanic ash cloud over Alaska. The volcanic ash entering the engines caused all four engines to shut down and the aircraft drop more than 14,000 feet before the pilots were able to restart the engines and land the aircraft safely in Anchorage, Alaska. The damage caused by the volcanic ash to the four engines of the 747 cost an estimated US$80mil to repair.
On 24-June-1982, an incident similar to the KLM incident occurred when British Airways Flight 9, a Boeing 747-236B, flying from Madras to Kuala Lumpur, flew through a volcanic cloud, causing all four engines to fail. The crew was able to glide the aircraft safely the 747 out of the ash, restart the engines and safely make an emergency landing in Jakarta.
The large ash cloud now sits over the airspace covering large portions of airspace used by European Airports, including the many airports in United Kingdom, Amsterdam, Geneva Brussels, Oslo, Paris, as well as other major European airports.
Interestingly enough, the weather patterns moving the large ash clouds have allowed Iceland’s capital airport of Keflavík International Airport, in Reykjavík, remains open.
If you are flying from Europe or to Europe today, you should check with your airline regarding flight delays or cancelations.
Below are two graphics of the volcanic ash clouds impacting the airspace over Europe.