Why Can’t Planes Fly Near Volcanic Ash? A (Very) Brief Look At Engine Failure

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Ash does not blast.

Nearly a week into the volcanic ash crisis plaguing swaths of Europe, passengers and airlines alike are starting to tire of the restricted airspace. The haunting cloud drifting thousands of feet above Earth’s surface is often invisible to the naked eye both at ground level and high into the reaches of the troposphere, causing many to wonder how this material could impact a flight. Could all of these microscopic particles of ash really be that big of problem?

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Amazing NASA Photo Of A Volcanic Eruption

Amazing NASA Photo Of A Volcanic Eruption

Photo of volcanic eruption taken from space 

A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev Volcano (Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, and it is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island. Prior to June 12, the last explosive eruption occurred in 1989, with eruptions in 1986, 1976, 1954, and 1946 also producing lava flows. Ash from the multi-day eruption has been detected 2,407 kilometers east-southeast and 926 kilometers west-northwest of the volcano, and commercial airline flights are being diverted away from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake.

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