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Can I safely fly a piston powered aircraft where there are volcanic ash and dust ?

25 May 2011

May 25 2011.

Article updated due to new eruption of the Icelandic volano Grimsvotn and with current

links to maps and areas with calculated mass of ash.

Links to maps 2011 are:

The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokul located about 1800 nautical miles northwest of the European mainland in mid April of 2010 has closed large parts of the European airspace for all air-traffic during several days. This has caused considerable economical damage to an industry already having a lot of financial problems.

Civil Aviation Authorities have struggled with the problem to interpret maps produced by the London Meteorological Office. The knowledge of the ash clouds or more correctly to say the dust clouds has been based on model calculations and is thus limited.

Eurocontrol has decided to  create three flight zones  where there is a risk of volcano ash in the airspace.

These three flight - zones are:

1- sufficient ash and dust concentrations (as to model) are present to make this zone a non-flying zone.

Red zone.

2. ash and dust are present but assumed to be in limited quantities - restrictions may apply and certain conditions must be met. Grey and blue zone.

3. no restrictions and with no known ash or dust,

From time to time airspace has been open or closed and for the pilot in command there has been very limited access to any information that might help him in his judgement and risk-evaluation regarding flying safe.

In the enclosed article in the upper right hand corner an attempt has been made to describe the current situation and environment for the pilot in command flying a piston powered aircraft. While foreign information usually deals with experience with volcanic ash from other parts of the world - such information may also be very valuable.There is also a link to Textron Lycoming and their information on this subject in environment laden with volcanic ash. A Teledyne Continental service bulletin is also imminent - but not yet published.  

The FAA has also released information in 1980 when the US was exposed to volcanic ash from the volcano Mount St. Helens. The FAA document can also be accessed from the upper right hand corner.

Aircraft with piston powered engines operating on aviation gasoline are less vulnerable to operate in volcanic ash with low concentration. However, any flight into such an environment could be a challenge. The article is written in good faith and with the purpose to have the pilot in command to conduct his own risk assessment and develop operational procedures to address any remaining risks.

This article is copyrighted but may be copied or referred to as long as Hjelmco Oil, the link to the webb-page and the author is credited for the text.

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