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    British Airways Flight 9
    24/06/1982 - British Airways Flight 9 flew into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by Mount Galunggung, causing the simultaneous failure of all four engines and plunging the 263 passengers out of the sky.|Read More|

    Shortly after 13:40 UTC (20:40 Jakarta time) above the Indian Ocean, south of Java, the flight crew first noticed St. Elmo's fire on the windscreen and sparks were flying off the nose of the aircraft. Despite the weather radar showing clear skies, the phenomenon persisted. So as a precaution, the crew switched on the engine anti-ice systems lit the passenger seat belt signs.

    Over the next few minutes, smoke began to accumulate throughout the passenger cabin of the aircraft which was at first assumed to be cigarette smoke. However, it soon began to grow thicker and had an ominously sulphurous odour. Passengers looking out of the windows noted that the engines glowing, with light shining through the fan blades producing a disturbing stroboscopic effect.

    At approximately 13:42 UTC, engine number four began surging and then flamed out. The crew immediately performed the engine shutdown drill, cutting off the fuel and arming the fire extinguishers. Less than a minute later, engine two surged and flamed out. Then almost simultaneously, engines one and three flamed out prompting the flight engineer to exclaim, "I don't believe it—all four engines have failed!"

    Without engine thrust, a 747-200 can glide forward 15 kilometres for every kilometre it drops. The flight crew quickly determined that the aircraft was capable of gliding for 23 minutes and covering 91 nautical miles (169 km) from its flight level of 37,000 feet (11,000 m). At 13:44 UTC, the Senior First Officer Roger Greaves declared an emergency to the local air traffic control authority, stating that all four engines had failed.

    Many passengers wrote notes to relatives. One such passenger was Charles Capewell who wrote "Ma. In trouble. Plane going down. Will do best for boys. We love you. Sorry. Pa XXX" scrawled on the cover of his ticket wallet.

    Due to the high Indonesian mountains on the south coast of the island of Java, an altitude of at least 11,500 feet (3,500 m) was required to cross the coast safely. The crew decided that if the aircraft was unable to maintain altitude by the time they reached 12,000 feet (3,700 m) they would turn back out to sea and attempt to ditch into the Indian Ocean. The crew began the engine restart drills, despite being well above the recommended altitude for this procedure, the failed to get the engines running.

    It was then that Captain Eric Moody made an announcement to the passengers that has been described as a masterpiece of understatement:

    "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 them under control. I trust you are not in too much distress."

    As air pressure within the cabin fell, oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling—an automatic emergency measure to make up for the lack of air. On the flight deck however, Greaves's mask was broken; the delivery tube had detached from the rest of the mask. Moody swiftly decided to descend to an altitude where there was enough pressure in the outside atmosphere to breathe almost normally.

    At 13,500 feet (4,100 m), they were approaching the altitude at which they would have to turn back over the ocean and attempt a risky ditching. Although there were guidelines for the procedure, no one had ever tried it in a Boeing 747. As they performed the engine-restart procedure, engine number four started, and at 13:56 UTC, Moody used its power to reduce the rate of descent. Shortly thereafter, engine three restarted, allowing him to climb slowly. Shortly after that, engines one and two successfully restarted as well. The crew subsequently requested an increase in altitude to 11,500 feet (3,500 m) in order to clear the high mountains of Indonesia.

    As the aircraft approached its target altitude, the St. Elmo's fire effect on the windscreen returned. Moody throttled back; however, engine number two surged again and had to be shut down. The crew immediately descended and held 12,000 feet (3,700 m).

    As Flight 9 approached Jakarta, the crew found it difficult to see anything through the windscreen, and had to make the approach almost entirely on instruments. The crew decided to fly on the ILS, Instrument Landing System, however, the glideslope was inoperative, so they flew the localizer as the first officer monitored the airport's DME (Distance Measuring Equipment). He then called out how high they should be at each DME step along the final approach to the runway, creating a virtual glide slope for them to follow. It was, in Moody's words, "a bit like negotiating one's way up a badger's arse". Although the runway lights could be made out through a small strip of the windscreen, the landing lights on the aircraft seemed to be inoperable. After landing, the flight crew found it impossible to taxi, due to glare from apron floodlights which made the already sandblasted windscreen opaque.


    It was found that planes problems had been caused by flying through a cloud of volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Galunggung. Because the ash cloud was dry, it did not show up on the weather radar, which is designed to detect the moisture in clouds. As the ash entered the engines, it melted in the combustion chambers and adhered to the inside of the power-plant. As the engine cooled from not running and as the aircraft descended out of the ash cloud, the molten ash solidified and enough broke off to allow air to flow smoothly through the engine allowing a successful restart. The engines had enough electrical power to restart because one generator and the onboard batteries were still operating; electrical power is required for ignition of the engines.

    Engines one, two and three were replaced at Jakarta, as well as the windscreen, and the fuel tanks were cleared of the ash that had entered them through the pressurisation ducts, contaminating the fuel and requiring that it be disposed of. After being ferried back to London, engine number four was replaced and major work was undertaken to return the aircraft to service. G-BDXH also entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest glide in a non-purpose-built aircraft, until the record was broken by the Air Transat Flight 236 incident.

    | More

    Spectacular lightning during the eruption of the volcano Galunggung, in the western island of Java, Indonesia.
    Posted on Sunday, January 09 @ 23:10:19 MST by sonicbom
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