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KLM Flight 867
Accident summary
Date 15 December 1989
Type Stalling of all engines due to blockage by volcanic ash
Site Redoubt Volcano, Anchorage, Alaska
Passengers 231
Crew 14
Injuries 0
Survivors 245 (all)
Aircraft type Boeing 747-406M
Operator KLM
Tail number PH-BFC
Flight origin Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Destination Anchorage International Airport

On 15 December 1989, KLM Flight 867 en route to Narita International Airport, Tokyo from Amsterdam was descending into Anchorage International Airport when the Boeing 747-400 flew though a thick cloud of volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt.[1] All four engines failed leaving only critical systems on backup electrical power. After descending more than 14,000 feet, Captain Karl van der Elst and crew were finally able to restart the engines and safely land the plane. In this case the ash caused more than US$80 million in damage to the aircraft, but no lives were lost.[2]

When all four main generators shut off due to the failure of all the engines, a momentary power interruption occurs when the flight instruments transfer to standby power. Standby power on the 747-400 is provided by two batteries and inverters. The captain performed the engine restart procedure which was not successful on the first few attempts and was repeated until restart was achieved. On some of the attempts, as one or more (but not all) engines started to operate, the main generator would switch back on. This switching on and off caused repeated power transfer interruptions to the flight instruments. The temporary blanking of the instruments gave the appearance that standby power had failed. These power transfers were later verified from the flight data recorder.

As of 2009, the aircraft is still in service with KLM under the KLM Asia livery.



The following transmissions took place between Anchorage Center, the air traffic control facility for that region, and KLM 867:[3]

  • Pilot KLM B–747—‘‘KLM 867 heavy is reaching level 250 heading 140’’
  • Anchorage Center—‘‘Okay, Do you have good sight on the ash plume at this time?’’
  • Pilot KLM B–747—‘‘Yea, it’s just cloudy it could be ashes. It’s just a little browner than the normal cloud.’’
  • Pilot KLM B–747—‘‘We have to go left now. . . it’s smoky in the cockpit at the moment sir.’’
  • Anchorage Center—‘‘KLM 867 heavy, roger, left at your discretion.’’
  • Pilot KLM B–747—‘‘Climbing to level 390, we’re in a black cloud, heading 130.’’
  • Pilot KLM B–747—‘‘KLM 867 we have flame out all engines and we are descending now!’’
  • Anchorage Center—‘‘KLM 867 heavy anchorage?
  • Pilot KLM B–747—‘‘KLM 867 heavy we are descending now. . . we are in a fall!’’
  • Pilot KLM B–747—‘‘KLM 867 we need all the assistance you have sir. Give us radar vectors please!’’

Similar incidents

In a nearly identical incident in 1982, British Airways Flight 9 from London Heathrow to Perth, whilst on the sector from Kuala Lumpur to Perth, Western Australia, flew into a cloud of volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Galunggung, causing all four engines to fail due to compressor stall. The aircraft was diverted to Jakarta, and was able to glide far enough to exit the ash cloud and restart its engines and land safely.

See also


  1. ^ Witkin, Richard (1989-12-16). "Jet Lands Safely After Engines Stop in Flight Through Volcanic Ash". New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2009-02-02.  
  2. ^ Neal, Christina; Thomas J. Casadevall, Thomas P. Miller, James W. Hendley II, Peter H. Stauffer (1997). "Volcanic Ash–Danger to Aircraft in the North Pacific". U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 030-97. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2009-02-02.  
  3. ^ US Senate Commerce Committee hearing

External links



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