24.06.

1982: Four engines of a Boeing 747 fail in a volcanic cloud

1982: Four engines of a Boeing 747 fail in a volcanic cloud
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ "British Airways Boeing 747-200 Silagi-1" by Richard Silagi - http://www.airliners.net/photo/British-Airways/Boeing-747-236B/1823201/L/. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 24 June 1982
  • The Boeing 747 flew into a cloud thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, located approximately 180 kilometers southeast of Jakarta. At the moment that all four engines have failed, the aircraft’s altitude was about 11,000 meters.

On this day in 1982 Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet” airliner flew into a volcanic cloud above Indonesia, which caused all four of its engines to flame out.

The aircraft, owned by British Airways, was flying from London to New Zealand, with stops in Bombay, Madras, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, and Melbourne.

On route from Kuala Lumpur to Perth, near the island of Java, the aircraft flew into a cloud thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung. This active volcano is located approximately 180 kilometers southeast of Jakarta.

The volcanic cloud was not visible on radar, and firstly went unnoticed by the crew of the aircraft. However, the smoke, which had a sulfur odor, was detected in the interior of the aircraft, and the engines had a glowing effect. The first engine flamed out around 20:42 local time, then another, and soon the other two.

At the moment that all four engines have failed, the aircraft’s altitude was about 11,000 meters. Even without engines, from that altitude a Boeing 747 can glide for about 169 kilometers before crashing. The crew calculated that they have about 23 minutes to impact.

The first attempt to restart the engines failed. After a while, they managed to start the engine number four. They used its thrust to reduce the rate of descent. They soon managed to restart another engine, which gave them the possibility to climb to a higher altitude. Eventually, they started the remaining two engines.

When the plane reached higher altitude, they went back to the volcanic cloud and one engine surged again. Therefore, they descended and stayed at 3,700 meters. They managed to land at an airport in Jakarta. The crew received medals and recognitions for their success.

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