KLM Flight 867

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KLM Flight 867
PH-BFC, the aircraft involved in the incident, in 2008
Incident summary
Date 15 December 1989
Summary Quadruple engine failure due to blockage by volcanic ash
Site Redoubt Volcano, Anchorage, Alaska
Passengers 231
Crew 14
Injuries (non-fatal) 0
Fatalities 0
Survivors 245 (all)
Aircraft type Boeing 747-406M
Aircraft name City of Calgary
Operator KLM
Registration PH-BFC
Flight origin Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Amsterdam
Stopover Anchorage International Airport, Alaska
Destination Narita International Airport, Tokyo
File:K.F. van der Elst.png
Captain Karl van der Elst / Front Dutch pilot association membership card
File:K.F. van der Elst 2.png
Captain Karl van der Elst / Back Dutch pilot association membership card

On 15 December 1989, KLM Flight 867, en route from Amsterdam to Narita International Airport Tokyo, was descending to Anchorage International Airport Alaska when all four engines failed. The Boeing 747-400 combi, less than six months old at the time,[1] flew through a thick cloud of volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt,[2] which had erupted the day before.

Engine failure

All four engines failed, leaving only critical systems on backup electrical power. One report assigns the engine shutdown to the turning of the ash into a glass coating inside the engines that fooled the engine temperature sensors and led to an auto-shutdown of all four engines.[3]

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.[citation needed]


The following edited transmissions took place between Anchorage Center, the air traffic control facility for that region, and KLM 867:[4]

Pilot: 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: Yea, it's just cloudy it could be ashes. It's just a little browner than the normal cloud.
Pilot: 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: Climbing to level 390, we're in a black cloud, heading 130.
Pilot: KLM 867 we have flame out all engines and we are descending now!
Anchorage Center: KLM 867 heavy, Anchorage?
Pilot: KLM 867 heavy, we are descending now: we are in a fall!
Pilot: KLM 867, we need all the assistance you have, sir. Give us radar vectors please!

Listen on this television broadcast to the actual cockpit audio recording: phys.org

Recovery and aftermath

After descending more than 14,000 feet, Captain Karl van der Elst and crew were 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, requiring all four engines to be replaced, but no lives were lost and no one was injured.[2][5] A shipment of 25 African birds, two genets and 25 tortoises aboard the plane was diverted to an Anchorage warehouse, where eight birds and three tortoises died before the mislabeled shipment was discovered.[6]

As of April 2015, the aircraft is still in service with KLM. PH-BFC no longer carries KLM Asia livery; the aircraft was repainted in KLM livery after a maintenance check in 2012.[7][8]

Similar incidents

In a nearly identical incident on 24 June 1982, British Airways Flight 9 from London Heathrow to Auckland, while on the leg 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, restart its engines (although one failed again shortly) and land safely.[9]

Other gliding airliners

See also


  1. http://www.airfleets.net/ficheapp/plane-b747-23982.htm Airfleets summary for Boeing 747 MSN 23982
  2. 2.0 2.1 Witkin, Richard (16 December 1989). "Jet Lands Safely After Engines Stop in Flight Through Volcanic Ash". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2 February 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20100418/NEWS02/704189878 "A look back at Alaska volcano’s near-downing of a 747"
  4. "VOLCANIC HAZARDS—IMPACTS ON AVIATION" U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing in 2006
  5. 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" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 030-97. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2 February 2009. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Mauer, Richard (14 January 1990). "Government looks into animals mishap". Anchorage Daily News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. PH-BFC pictures on Airliners.net
  8. http://www.planespotters.net/Aviation_Photos/photo.show?id=261869
  9. Brennan, Zoe (29 January 2007). "The story of BA flight 009 and the words every passenger dreads..." Daily Mail. Retrieved 16 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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