The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) recently posted three tips for pilots flying in areas with active volcanoes, especially timely now with several volcanoes currently active, including Kilauea in Hawaii and Fuego in Guatemala.
NBAA officials note that now is a good time to brush up on your knowledge to keep you safe while flying in these areas:
Avoid Volcanic Ash
The first rule of thumb when flying in an area of volcanic ash is don’t do it. Plan your route of flight to ensure a wide clearance from volcanic ash clouds.
Abrasive volcanic ash can cause substantial damage to engines, pneumatic and hydraulic systems, as well as windscreens, contaminate oxygen systems, and block pitot/static systems.
Several resources are available for pilots to receive current volcanic ash activity. The nine Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAAC), SIGMETs and NOTAMs provide details regarding volcanic ash clouds and related information.
If you’re planning to fly near areas of volcanic activity, refresh your knowledge of operations in volcanic ash before you go, and develop and document operating procedures.
For example, if you inadvertently encounter volcanic ash, be prepared to respond appropriately by reducing thrust to idle (altitude permitting) and reversing course out of the ash cloud.
Do not attempt to fly through or climb out of the ash cloud, as ash clouds can extend for hundreds of miles.
If volcanic ash is encountered outside of areas previously reported, be sure to advise ATC as soon as possible — you may be the first to encounter volcanic ash in that area. PIREPs are an opportunity to share new information, confirm current information, or alert ATC and other pilots that the area is clear of ash.
Pilots may stay clear of volcanic ash during flight, but then find ash has impacted their destination or departure airport. When landing at an airport with volcanic ash deposits on the runway, breaking action might be degraded. Pilots taking off from airports with volcanic ash deposits on the runway should wait for ash to settle before departing and might find it appropriate to delay flap extension.
“The best practice for operating near volcanic activity is simply to avoid it,” said John Kosak, program manager of weather for NBAA Air Traffic Services. “If you’re operating in an area with known volcanic activity, even if you plan your flight for a wide berth around volcanic ash, review company procedures and aircraft manufacturer recommendations regarding volcanic ash so you’re prepared for an unexpected encounter.”