Airports, including Heathrow, Belfast, and the main airports in Scotland and Norway are facing massive disruption for the next 24-48 hours as ash from Iceland’s volcanic eruption moves towards UK airspace. Transatlantic flights through UK airspace are also badly affected.

Following advice from the UK Met Office, the National Air Traffic Service introduced these restrictions to UK airspace as a result of volcanic ash drifting across the United Kingdom from Icelands recent volcanic activity.

The European air safety body, Eurocontrol, said the cloud of ash had reached 55,000ft and was expected to move through northern UK & Scotland by 1300BST today.

The Jakarta Effect

The restrictions were necessary because volcanic ash can damage aircraft engines and other instruments.

On June 24th, 1982 a British Airways 747, Speedbird 9, was on its way over Jakarta in Indonesia when Capt. Eric Moody made the following address to the 247 passengers on board;

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are all doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

After unknowingly flying through a plume of volcanic ash, all four engines shut down one by one.
Another side effect of flying through the ash for BA Speedbird 9 was that the windscreen of the aircraft was effectively sandblasted and they could only see through a small unaffected strip at the bottom of the window. It also blocked the pitot tubes which resulted in a 50 knot difference on the left and right airspeed indicators.

As they decended below FL29 (29,000 feet), they started trying to restart the engines, as per their training and their understanding of the 4 Rolls Royce engines standard operating procedures; Not expecting that the engines would restart. They continued to decend through 14,000 feet and ast they did they were able to get engine #4 restarted. followed by engine #3. About 2 minutes into the sequence, engines #1 and #2 came back on-ilne.

Jakarta ATC cleared them for a visual landing, as there was no way the flight could continue to its destination. They landed safely only using instruments and the 2-inch strip of clear glass to land the jumbo.

There was a nearly identical incident on 15th December 1989 when KLM Flight 867, a B747-400 travelling between Amsterdam to Anchorage, Alaska, flew throught a plume of volcanic ash from the erupting Mount Redoubt, again. causing all four engines to fail.

The effect of volcanic ash contaminating an engine is called “The Jakarta Effect” after the problems BA Flight 9 / Speedbird 9 had over Jakarta back in 1982.

Below is a video from Air Crash Investigation which shows the problems of BA Flight 9 in 1982.

So if you can’t travel today then there is an actual reason and its down to “The Jakarta Effect”.