Oh my gosh.. the ash cloud will kill us all!!!! Run for the hills!!! Just not the hills with holes in the top… Now that the ash cloud from Volcano Esldjkghskdjfbgkjh is looming above Europe, some 20,000 feet in the air and about 10,000 Km long this “ash” cloud supposedly has a planned course… as most clouds do… or not… of traveling a little bit north, widening a little, raising or lowering, possibly dispersing, but overall moving in a different direction. At a little over 200 million dollars per day for the major airlines to stay grounded, it is no wonder they have “resumed” flights. Due to the successful testing of empty planes we now know that passengers can fly as well. Okay. Feeewww. So let’s go into some “conversation” about volcanic ash and what it can do to an airplane.
Volcanic ash is basically small shards of “glass” suspended in the atmosphere. Not so bad unless you’re traveling through this at 400 miles per hour. You’ve just created your very own sand blaster. So sandblasters and airplanes have always gone well together. The amount of damage that can occur only to the STRUCTURE of the plane in 7 minutes is roughly equivalent to 100 hours of normal flight. (two of us from Bucharest Expat are licensed pilots… and we think this is insane to be flying right now. There will probably be no accidents, but wow…. look at the risks).
The interesting thing is that this ash is also magnetically charged. In the Indonesia incident where a plane almost crash landed as a result of this “unknown at the time” occurrence, the passengers reported “ball lightning” surrounding the airplane. Basically this is one huge Vandegraaff generator. Remember, the instruments on airplanes can be heavily influence by strong magnetic, and electronic fields. *** keep in mind here that the pilots will most likely have no visual indicators that they are flying through an ash cloud, especially at night, where you will assume you are simply flying through another cloud! If not for test equipment on board research planes, no one could pinpoint beyond a reasonable doubt when the plane actually flew through ash. The engines will simply “die” at the worst.
One might think that the ash (being small shards of glass) would simply be incinerated in the engines. This is not the case, as the extreme temperatures from a jet engine are from the exhaust exiting the engine. Inside, most parts are cool enough to touch. What you will have though, is extreme heat created through the friction of the “fan blades” through the high density of the “sand blaster” particles. In the attached PDF from NASA, pay very close attention to the damage this can cause.
Once the friction is created, that WILL create heat. Do you think jet engines and fresh lava mix well? I don’t. The temperature sensors in the engines become confused, the engine shuts down… hopefully no major damage has yet to occur other than this “flameout”. The plane must then descend below the ash cloud for a restart and emergency landing. All this occurs with little or no warning. This is just the problem with the engines. Don’t forget about the rest of the structural problems that could occur as well as instrument issues. (ash will also clog the Pitot tube, which is the protruding nub that looks like a pointy finger on the front of the plane. The pitot tube is simply a sensor that is tied to multiple cockpit instruments).
Those are the basics on this stuff. Couple that with the ever increasing emphasis on passenger safety (just kidding) and you could have a recipe for disaster. So if you wish to get aboard an airplane heading through the remnants and ash of the Iceland Volcano Eyjafjallajokull then you may wish to reconsider… or at least understand what you are getting in to. Spend some time and look through these attached links as well as the NASA pdf and you will be entertained and intrigued to say the least…
Here is the NASA pdf that is really interesting. It outlines the damage that can be caused from the ash cloud, as well as the risks associated with it. Of interesting note is the Volcano that erupted and served as the basis for this “test” was right next to Volcano Eyjafjallajokull. History is strange. Pay attention to the trajectories of the ash cloud at compare the current media coverage to this pdf.
Most of the news reporting agencies have their own “projected” timelines and travel paths… here’s an interesting one: