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Volcanic Ash: Guidance for Controllers
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This article provides guidance for controllers on what to expect of an aircraft experiencing problems associated with volcanic ash and some of the considerations which will enable the controller to provide as much support as possible to the aircraft concerned.
An aircraft encountering volcanic ash may experience engine problems; in some cases, aircraft have lost all engines as a result of them becoming clogged up with ash and deposits from the burning and melting of particles in the ash cloud.
- Care should be taken not to route aircraft through clouds of volcanic ash where forecast on SIGMET charts. Where possible route aircraft upwind of the ash cloud.
- Relay available ASHTAM information by reporting volcanic ash hazards for all aircraft concerned.
- Note that weather radar will not detect the small particles in the ash clouds and crews may not get any advance warning of entering the ash cloud. ATC radars will not detect the presence of volcanic ash for the same reasons.
Communications with aircraft may suffer interference because of the electrical charges within the ash cloud.
Action by the Flight Crews
Expect aircraft to take the shortest way out of the cloud, usually by descent and possibly by making a descending 180 degree turn. Aircraft affected by engine malfunction may not be able to maintain height. Clear airspace around the aircraft and if appropriate advise the crew of Minimum Safe Altitude. Warn other aircraft in the vicinity of the location of the ash cloud.
- Contingency Planning: Volcanic Ash
- Managing Volcanic Ash Risk to the Safety of Flights
- Volcanic Ash
- Volcanic Ash Advisory
- Volcanic Ash: Guidance for Controllers
- Volcanic Ash: Guidance for Flight Crews
- ICAO Handbook for International Airways Volcano Watch. This handbook is no longer subject to ICAO revision except for 'Part 5 - Contacts' for which they have set up a specific "latest version" at: http://www.icao.int/icaonet/dcs/9766/9766_p5_en.pdf
- ICAO EUR Doc 019: "Volcanic Ash Contingency Plan" - 2nd Edition, September 2009
- ICAO NAT OPS Bulletin - Effective: 16 May 2010 at 0001 UTC, recommended interim enhanced procedures to be implemented by States in the event of a volcanic eruption
'Flight Safety Foundation
- Flight Safety Foundation, Flight Safety Digest, May 1993, “Volcanic Hazards and Aviation Safety: Lessons of the Past Decade”, Casadevall.