June 24, 1982, aircraft Boeing 747 British Airways, made one of its longest flights on the route London—Bombay—Madras—Kuala Lumpur—Perth-Melbourne—Auckland. On-Board there were 248 passengers and 15 crew members.
The first oddities arose after 20:40 over the Indian Ocean, to the South in 150 km from the island of Java. At an altitude of 11300 meters. Passengers began to notice oddities. Smoke appeared. At first, it did not cause concern, because in those years Smoking was allowed onboard the aircraft. But then the smoke became denser and there was a smell of sulfur. Flight attendants rushed with fire extinguishers to look for a source of ignition. The smoke was everywhere, and the source could not be found. The aircraft commander turned on the “Fasten your seatbelts” sign. At this time, the crew and passengers saw a strange and strong glow of the wings of the aircraft. And from the engines burst out fiery plumes of blue and purple colors.
It was like the famous Lights of St. Elmo. But where do they come from? The lights of St. Elmo were first seen by sailors. Suddenly, the tops of the masts are lit up with a flickering bluish glow. In the Middle Ages, a legend was born in Europe. Saint Elm died during a storm on the deck of a ship. Before his death, he promised that from the next world he would give signs of an impending disaster, and these signs would be dancing magic lights. These discharges of atmospheric electricity can damage electronics.
The commander's first thought was about the glaciation of the ship, but the weather conditions did not give such an opportunity. Just in case, the commander turned on the de-icing system. The second thing that was thought was thunder lightning. But the weather locator showed clear skies. The situation worsened every minute. At 20:42, engine No. 4 stopped. The crew immediately turned off the fuel supply and put the fire extinguishing system in a state of readiness. After a minute, engine No. 2 stopped. The crew stops supplying fuel to it, and the remaining engines No. 1 and No. 3 immediately stop. All four engines freeze. The plane flies in silence embraced by the lights of St. Elmo. The crew does not have any clue about what is happening. Passengers in a panic. At this moment, the commander of the ship makes a message to the passengers that they will remember for life. “Ladies and gentlemen,” this is the captain speaking. We had a small problem on board. All four engines stopped. We are doing our best to launch them. I hope this does not bother you too much.” Well, what's the trouble? Only quiet horror and panic! The aircraft, although jet, has aerodynamic qualities. In Boeing 747-200, these qualities allow you not to fall immediately, but to lose altitude at a speed of 1 kilometer per 15 kilometers of flight.
The crew quickly estimated that the flight would last another 23 minutes and they would fly away at a distance of 167 kilometers. It was enough to reach the airport in Jakarta. At 20:44, the second pilot reported that all four engines stopped on the plane. However, the dispatcher in Jakarta did not understand the message and decided that only one-fourth engine had stopped. Negotiations were heard by a pilot of a nearby Garuda Indonesia airline who was able to transmit the correct information to the dispatcher. Despite the inclusion of an emergency beacon, the dispatcher in Jakarta could not see the plane on his radar. On the way between the plane and Jakarta stood a mountain range 3,500 meters high.
The commander of the ship had a question: take a chance and try to fly over the mountains, or turn around and board the water in the Indian Ocean. But how to get on the water? No one even imagines whether this is possible. There is nothing but the most general recommendations. While the commander was thinking, the co-pilot and flight engineer unsuccessfully tried to start the engines. At this time, the pressurization system of the cabin is turned off, and the pressure begins to drop rapidly. Oxygen masks fall from ceiling panels. But the co-pilot had a broken mask. Seeing the co-pilot losing consciousness, the commander lowers the plane to a height where you can breathe. Height 4100 meters. There were seconds to the ridge, it was necessary to turn around. Suddenly engine No 4 starts. The commander uses this to reduce the rate of fall. Suddenly engine number 3 starts. Followed by all the others. The plane immediately gains height and overcomes the mountains. Again a strong glow appeared, and engine No 2 stopped again. The mountains have overcome at the critical height of 3700 meters. Landing in Jakarta was extreme. Instrument landing was not possible. In addition, the automatic landing system at Jakarta Airport did not work. The windshield mysteriously lost transparency. After two small gaps, the second pilot monitored the distance from the strip, and the commander monitored the height. Landing lights of the aircraft also did not work. Moreover, the lights of the landing strip shone in an opaque windshield. However, the crew managed to land the plane. After the joy of a successful landing subsided, wanted to quickly find the cause of this unusual incident. But seeing the plane outside in the morning, the mysteries only increased. The plane seemed to be rubbed with sandpaper. In places, there was no paint at all. All the stickers got off. No one could explain. Why did all the engines stop? The motor manufacturer Rolls Royce took them off the plane and sent them to London for examination. The engines inside were badly scratched and clogged with fine dust. The blades are covered with a sintered crust. After the chemical analysis of solid particles, it turned out that it was volcanic ash. The culprit of the flight accident was found. On the night of the flight, an eruption of the Galunggung volcano occurred 160 kilometers from Jakarta. In those years, this volcano erupted quite often.
But never did these eruptions interfere with flights. This time, the ashes rose to a height of 15 kilometers, and the wind drove the ashes towards the plane. Solid particles from friction on the skin of the aircraft caused a glow. And getting into the engine, the ash was baked and deposited in the combustion chamber and on the nozzles. When the plane crashed and left the ash cloud, the engines started again.
This was the first case of the impact of volcanoes on an airplane in the history of world aviation. After that, the Rules of Meteorological Support for Flights were amended. From now on, they began to take into account volcanic activity as a potential threat to flights.