Flying around Volcanic Ash Clouds

The ash cloud crisis in April 2010 caused aviation gridlock for six days, and Iceland have this week raised the alert about another new possible eruption.

Activity from the Bardarbunga volcano has intensified, causing the Iceland Meterological office to raise the colour-coded risk alert to orange for the aviation industry (the fourth level of a five-grade scale).

It’s currently unknown whether an ash cloud will be formed of the same magnitude as the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. But with the strong earthquake registered on Monday last week and continued volcanic activity since, the aviation industry is on high alert for potential disruption.

PrivateFly can still arrange flights during ash cloud, and private jet charter offers the optimal flexibility to arrange flights at short notice and work around airport and airspace closures (read more about Private jet travel to and from Iceland).

Here is PrivateFly’s guide to flying around volcanic ash:

Why can PrivateFly charter aircraft to fly during ash cloud incidents?

  • Private jet airport flexibility and in-flight route changes
    Private jet itineraries are flexible and can be scheduled to avoid the ash cloud. Flights can be changed in-flight to take you to the closest available airport or co-ordinate with ground transport to get you to your destination.
  • Use non-jet aircraft
    Many propeller or piston aircraft operators can fly in the ash cloud. Piston aircraft have air filters (much like a car engine) that remove the ash from entering the engine.
  • Up to date information and communication.
    PrivateFly tracks the ash cloud and monitors whether our member flights should depart earlier or later, or from alternative airports.


Previous ash clouds – lessons learnt

Act early to avoid delays

  • Airlines schedules can be cancelled without warning. Ask PrivateFly for alternative options if your schedule is in any doubt.
  • Use alternative aircraft types
    Consider using propeller aircraft
  • Be Flexible
    Be prepared to depart early and use different airports
  • Use smaller airports
    During ash clouds travelling to and from major airports is difficult due to the high number of panicking travellers. Using smaller airports (where scheduled airlines  do not operate from) will reduce delays


What damage can volcanic ash do to aircraft?

    Private Jet Aircraft engine
  • Engine Malfunction
    The silicon content of ash melts at 1100deg C (a temperature almost all jet engines reach) into a liquid that fuses onto the turbine blades within a jet engine. The engine looses pressure and surges causing a flame out.
  • Long Term Engine Damage
    Volcanic ash is abrasive and causes ‘sand blasting’ within an engine. The damaged engine is less efficient and burns more fuel to achieve the same amount of thrust. Eventually the engine cannot perform to regulation standards and needs to be replaced.
  • External Surface Corrosion
    The ash particles hit the aircraft exterior at high velocity and causes damage to the windows and aircraft skin. Pilots may not be able to see out of the window and leading edge panels will need to be replaced.


Understanding Volcanoes

Not all volcanoes will disrupt air traffic when they erupt. It depends on the volcano type, winds and weather, location and the type of volcanic eruption.
Volcano Types:

  • Cinder Cones – generally are too small to affect aviation
  • Shield Volcanoes – large and flat but generally do not emit sufficient ash to affect aviation
  • Stratovolcanoes –  explosive and able to throw ash high into the atmosphere at heights that affect aviation

For all private jet charter enquiries regarding ash cloud disruption or otherwise, call the PrivateFly team on +44 (0) 1747 642 777 or contact us)