The FAA has released a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) advising owners of aircraft with turbine engines that may operate where volcanic ash may be present of recently issued communications from engine manufacturers. Specifically directed toward pilots who may fly in and out of Europe, while the Icelandic volcano, Mount Eyjafjallajokull, is still active. “Although a specific airworthiness safety concern has not been determined, we are issuing this SAIB to highlight recent actions and emphasize the need for operator awareness,” the SAIB states.
On March 20, 2010, Mount Eyjafjallajokull erupted after almost 200 years of inactivity. On April 14, 2010, EUROCONTROL shut down airspace throughout various airports in Europe as a result of the drifting volcanic ash cloud from the eruption. Since that initial shutdown, the UK CAA has led a coordinated effort, which included the FAA, to identify an acceptable level of dissipating ash concentration, which has allowed EUROCONTROL to allow flights to resume in most regions.
Volcanic ash can pose a significant threat to aviation safety. During the 1980s, a number of flights into volcanic ash clouds occurred that resulted in the simultaneous shutdown of all engines, the SAIB notes. Volcanic ash can present short-term as well as long-term operational hazards to turbine engines. While the short-term affects of erosion and power loss are well documented, the long-term effects of repeated exposures are not well understood.
The SAIB recommends that operators follow all new and existing maintenance and operational instructions from the aircraft and engine manufacturers, including any recommended post-flight checks on aircraft that might have flown through airspace contaminated with volcanic ash.
Before flying from the United States to Europe or within Europe, aircraft owners and operators should review the following recommendations:
Although the FAA does not recommend engine operation or flight into a visible volcanic ash cloud, we do recommend that you obtain definitive information on operational limitations around ash clouds, if any, from each of the European National Authority of the State(s), of which you plan flight operations.
Follow all aircraft and engine manufacturer’s operating and maintenance instructions pertaining to operations in airspace where volcanic ash may be near or present.
Report any inadvertent encounter with volcanic ash or relevant findings, including abnormal engine behavior, to the respective type certificate holders of the aircraft and engines.
For more information: FAA.gov