Updated May 10, 2005 www.ofcm.gov

The 2nd International Conference on Volcanic Ash and Aviation Safety
June 21-24, 2004
Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel
Alexandria, Virginia (USA)



Theme: Avoiding Airborne Volcanic Ash -- Anywhere in the World

Conference Goals

  • Consolidate and communicate the substantial progress made in the technical, operational, and scientific aspects of ash hazard mitigation since the first international meeting in 1991.
  • Identify requirements and opportunities for further improvements in each component of the coordinated, international mitigation system.
  • Leverage the ongoing investment of effort and resources by the international programs, technology R&D partners, and the aviation industry to ensure the greatest return in reducing risks to safety and socioeconomic consequences.

The Risk to Aviation from Airborne Volcanic Ash

Airborne volcanic ash is a serious aviation safety hazard. In the past 20 years, more than 80 commercial aircraft have unexpectedly encountered volcanic ash clouds in flight. Commercial jetliners that have encountered volcanic ash plumes have had all engines fail, with several near-crashes. Abrasion to forward-facing surfaces, including cockpit windows, the leading edges of wings and control surfaces, engine cowlings, etc., threaten safety and require expensive repairs. Cockpit windows have been pitted badly enough to endanger landing. Damages to a single aircraft have reached $80 million. In addition to these major repair costs from encountering a heavier plume of ash, aircraft flying through thinner plumes require increased maintenance of engines and external surfaces.

On average, about 15 major explosive eruptions—those powerful enough to inject ash into the stratosphere—occur per year. Ash clouds that reach above 25,000 ft. can travel hundreds of miles. Giant plumes from a major eruption, such as Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, can affect aircraft thousands of miles downwind. When Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, the plume reached an altitude of 90,000 ft. in 30 minutes and was 50 miles wide. In 15 hours, the plume traveled 600 miles downwind. After 2 weeks, ash had circled the earth.