peh
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Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:12 am

I've capitalized "sudden" because I understand that volcanic ash clouds can be dangerous for aircraft.

My impression, which could be entirely wrong, is that ash clouds are getting a lot more attention in the aviation world than they used to. I mean, volcanoes have been blasting the deadly stuff into the atmosphere since time began but it's only in the last 5 years or so that the aviation industry has been so affected.

One theory put to me recently is that risk carries a greater financial burden for airlines in modern times. They simply can't afford to risk losing an aircraft to ash.

I'd be interested in your thoughts and, of course, I'm happy to be proven completely wrong.
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catiii
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 2:26 am

Quoting peh (Thread starter):
I mean, volcanoes have been blasting the deadly stuff into the atmosphere since time began but it's only in the last 5 years or so that the aviation industry has been so affected.

I don't think that it's a case of airlines suddenly caring, but the recent eruptions had more of an impact on air travel by nature of the geographic location in which they erupted and the wind patterns where they erupted. The Iceland volcano, which I dare not try and spell, spewed ash over the NATs and into Europe.
 
Airvan00
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 2:32 am

The airlines have taken a big interest in ash clouds since BA9 had all it engines stopped for 13 minutes by an ash cloud.
 
peh
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:34 am

Quoting Airvan00 (Reply 2):
The airlines have taken a big interest in ash clouds since BA9 had all it engines stopped for 13 minutes by an ash cloud.

You see, I don't think they have. That incident was almost 20 years ago. It's only been in the last 5 years that there have been aviation chaos caused by ash clouds. What happened during the 15 year gap? Were the world's volcanoes strangely silent?
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Braniff747SP
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:15 am

Quoting peh (Reply 3):

You see, I don't think they have. That incident was almost 20 years ago. It's only been in the last 5 years that there have been aviation chaos caused by ash clouds. What happened during the 15 year gap? Were the world's volcanoes strangely silent?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KLM_Flight_867


There has been a bigger focus on these events because they have impacted air travel a lot more these last years...
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bj87
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:47 am

Quoting peh (Reply 3):
You see, I don't think they have. That incident was almost 20 years ago. It's only been in the last 5 years that there have been aviation chaos caused by ash clouds. What happened during the 15 year gap? Were the world's volcanoes strangely silent?

As far as I am aware they haven't been strangely silent.

What I think, not 100% sure, the difference between now and 15 years ago is that the last few eruptions disrupted some of the busiest air routes in the world. Also the authorities involved didn't know how to deal with the situation so the over reacted making the situation worse.

For countries in the ring of fire where volcanic eruptions are a little more common so is the ash cloud problem. They have more experience in dealing with aviation and ash clouds so they don't just shut down and go home. Also the air routes that are close to them generally aren't as busy as the trans Atlantic route for example so it is easier for them to re-direct aircraft around the ash cloud or in an extreme case close the air space for a couple of hours.

Just my thoughts on the subject.
 
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SEPilot
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:22 am

The Iceland eruption disrupted air travel more extensively and for a longer time than any other eruption in history, I believe. The simple fact is that most eruptions occur in areas that do not massively disrupt air travel, either because there is plenty of empty (i.e. Pacific) space in which to avoid it, or it does not impact travel routes much at all. Europe is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, and in terms of air travel is probably the densest. It is not normally subject to volcanic eruptions, and those that do happen usually are mostly lava rather than ash eruptions, and hence do not cause widespread air travel disruptions. The recent Icelandic eruption was thus a very unusual event in that it had a much greater ash content (due to the fact that it was covered with ice at the time of the eruption-in itself an unusual event), it persisted for an unusually long time, and the winds carried it over some of the busiest airspace in the world. If the same eruption had happened in the Pacific (where most volcanic activity is) it would have been a non-event.
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Bellerophon
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:19 am

peh

...but it's only in the last 5 years or so that the aviation industry has been so affected...

No, I don’t think that is either fair or correct. The industry has been affected - and concerned - for much longer than that.

Research into the dangers of flight operations in and near volcanic ash clouds (which had always been known about) increased substantially after an incident involving flight BA9, a B747-200 registered G-BDXH, operating KUL-PER.

You said that this incident happened ...almost 20 years ago... but actually it was much longer ago than that, on the 24 June 1982, nearly 30 years ago.

SEPilot and bj87 have already ably outlined the reasons why the latest eruptions have caused so much disruption, with the location of the volcanoes and the prevailing wind direction after eruption being crucial factors in determining how much disruption to air traffic there will be.

Eruptions in remote parts of the world where the ash cloud does not drift into many airways will not have much effect and so will not receive much media attention. An eruption such as the recent one in Iceland, relatively close to high density North Atlantic tracks and which then threatens to deposit ash over a substantial number of European airports, will (and did) cause massive disruption and hence increased media attention.

Media interest in the problem may have increased in the last few years - all those tabloid stories about stranded passengers - but don't confuse press stories with industry interest or action.


Best Regards

Bellerophon
 
citationjet
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:32 pm

Quoting peh (Thread starter):
My impression, which could be entirely wrong, is that ash clouds are getting a lot more attention in the aviation world than they used to.
Quoting Bellerophon (Reply 7):
but don't confuse press stories with industry interest or action.

I don't think that the attention in the aviation world has suddently increased, it has always been there for aviation. It has been getting more attention in the media world. Don't confuse the two. In the past 30 years there are more media sources and media outlets, and they have to fill their websites and broadcasts with something.

For example, Yahoo recently ran a story on wide body aircraft landing at Maho Beach in St. Maarten. To quote the article, "Thrill-seeking people are heading to a beach on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, where Boeing 747s fly so low that they darken the skies." This has been happening for years.
http://beta.news.yahoo.com/photos/maho-beach-1308165446-slideshow/
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SEPilot
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:34 pm

Quoting CitationJet (Reply 8):
http://beta.news.yahoo.com/photos/maho-beach-1308165446-slideshow/

Is that first 747 AF? Belly looks kinda dirty....   
The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
 
Flighty
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Sat Jul 09, 2011 6:29 am

Quoting SEPilot (Reply 6):
Europe is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, and in terms of air travel is probably the densest.

  

Yes, by economic intensity, Western Europe is probably the densest place on Earth, along with the Eastern USA and Japan. All other places would be less dense (this is reflected in air traffic volume, as you suggested).
 
a380900
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Sat Jul 09, 2011 10:23 am

I think there has been a gross over reaction to the last year eruption. The safety measures, I checked at the time, seemed ridiculous compared to any known previous incidents in terms of distance between the volcano and the limits of the no flight zone. Absolutely absurd.

So stop airline traffic in Europe for one week for any reason and this reason will get a lot of attention.

The attention ash got at this time was a direct consequence of a stupid reaction from the European States confronted with the lack of widely admitted norms about the appropriate reaction to this kind of evident.

As often, meteorological considerations are the way fear and irrationality are introduced into the debate. Pretty much like global warming. I found this entire episode absolutely ridiculous.


And if one wants to know why this thing got huge at this particular point in time, let me venture a guess: technology! I think it happened because some nerds in a weather labs came up with a model with shiny graphic outputs of the "ash cloud" that was just what was needed to scare the s... out of credulous politicians and media. That's it.

Now I could be wrong on the extent of my cynicism but I'm sure there's part of that at play here. I don't know volcanoes or weather or ash clouds but I've been around the mix of media, politicians and scientists long enough...

[Edited 2011-07-09 03:37:14]
 
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Zkpilot
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Sat Jul 09, 2011 12:24 pm

The previous ash clouds haven't been in the same latitudes/weather systems or had the right kind of ash. The current ones are more significant in that regard. Also ever since that BA 747 almost crashed near Indonesia several years back airlines take ash very seriously these days.
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bond007
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Sat Jul 09, 2011 1:13 pm

Quoting a380900 (Reply 11):
I don't know volcanoes or weather or ash clouds

Yet you seem to feel qualified to comment on 'ridiculous' safety measures, 'absurd' no-fly zones, 'meteorological considerations', and 'stupid reactions'  
Quoting a380900 (Reply 11):
As often, meteorological considerations are the way fear and irrationality are introduced into the debate

Often??

Quoting a380900 (Reply 11):
Now I could be wrong on the extent of my cynicism

I think so!


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ThirtyEcho
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Sun Jul 10, 2011 5:52 am

It is hardly an "obsession" if it is a prudent safety matter. The volcano in Iceland plastered all of Europe and far into Russia with ash. The ash even went as far south as Spain and Portugal. The low altitude ash went west, all the way to Newfoundland, and the North Atlantic Tracks were involved at all normal cruising altitudes. Avoiding that was not an "obsession," which would imply that pilots and airlines were suffering from some sort of collective psychiatric disorder.

As far as I know, "Airborne Avoidance of Volcanic Ash" is not listed in the DSM-IV as a recognized mental problem.

[Edited 2011-07-09 22:58:59]
 
474218
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:53 pm

Another thing to consider: In the 1980's airlines reported a marked increase in the number of cabin windows that were being replaced because of crazing and/or cracking. After an industry wide investigation the cause was traced to volcanic ash. The ash is highly acidic and if allowed to remain of the surface of the acrylic windows and moisture was added it would cause etching of the surface. If the ash and moisture was trapped on the machined edge of the window it caused delamination and/or cracking.

Additionally, volcanic ash can cause erosion of the pitot static (probes) masts. The orifices in the probes very small and held to a very close tolerance. If the orifices are enlarged the data displayed my not be accurate.

So when volcanic ash has been encountered a through washing of the exterior of the aircraft is recommended.
 
baroque
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RE: Why The Sudden Obsession W/ Ash Clouds?

Sun Jul 10, 2011 3:46 pm

Quoting peh (Reply 3):
What happened during the 15 year gap? Were the world's volcanoes strangely silent?

Quite a lot!!

Quoting bj87 (Reply 5):
As far as I am aware they haven't been strangely silent.

Indeed not.

Quoting Bellerophon (Reply 7):
No, I don’t think that is either fair or correct. The industry has been affected - and concerned - for much longer than that.

Research into the dangers of flight operations in and near volcanic ash clouds (which had always been known about) increased substantially after an incident involving flight BA9, a B747-200 registered G-BDXH, operating KUL-PER.

You said that this incident happened ...almost 20 years ago... but actually it was much longer ago than that, on the 24 June 1982, nearly 30 years ago.

First there was quite a bit of work on altering radars so that they could detect and separate "water clouds" from "ash clouds". That does not seem to have been very successful.

As far as Indonesia is concerned, I can tell you of some of the measures. Just after the Galungung eruption - my wife remembers the next day very well as her house was covered with about 10 cms of ash - I was on a committee assessing students in Indonesia for scholarships to study in Australia, where the Indonesian co-chair was the Head of Vulcanology and we spent quite a bit of time talking over lunch about what they were doing to warn airlines of volcanic clouds.

Many issues that were close to insoluble then, have been solved so simply by technology. In the 80s, the volcano eruption warning system could not afford telephones and there was no funding to run phones up the volcanoes - and no mobile phones you know. On most volcanoes their observers had a bicycle on which they pedalled furiously to the nearest public phone and phoned Vulcanology. I kid you not. That information was then translated into warnings that were sent to Jakarta airport, by then at Cengkarang.

And yes, we did discuss whether Australian aid could be used to improve the communications. The nearest we could get was a scholarship to a student to study Mt Merapi to try to work out more in relation to its eruptive pattern. Some European programs were also directed to this end.

So QF pilots taking the data from Vulcanology were cheerfully ignorant that the warning might well be close to 24 hours out of date. At that time, you could visit up front and a couple of pilots heading off from CGK across Bandung to Galunggung were quite interested to know a bit more about the quality of the warnings. But they were the best that could be done, and ironically even that system would probably have been enough to get BA9 out of harms way.

Now of course all the observers have a mobile, or to be more exact in Indonesia they have a HP, and warnings come in within minutes.

The radar problem remains AFAIK.

When the groundings relating to the recent Chilean eruption were happening in Aus, I got the impression that the dangers were more to maintenance costs that to passenger safety. But I could be wrong on that. Those clouds were way more dilute than the plume over Galunggung that night. That one was a version of an aerial brick. They mined the fallout near the volcano as building sand for years after the eruption. (For the engineers, no it is not a good substitute for quartz sands, but it as good as you get in volcanic Java!!!!)

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