The 1989-1990 eruption of Redoubt Volcano, Alaska: impacts on aircraft operations

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research



The December 1989–June 1990 eruption of Redoubt Volcano affected commercial and military air operations in the vicinity of Anchorage, Alaska. These effects were due to the direct impact of volcanic ash on jet aircraft, as well as to the rerouting and cancellations of flight operations owing to eruptive activity. Between December and February, five commercial jetliners were damaged from ash encounters. The most serious incident took place on December 15, 1989 when a Boeing 747-400 aircraft temporarily lost power of all four engines after encountering an ash cloud as the airplane descended for a landing in Anchorage. While there were no injuries to passengers, the damage to engines, avionics, and aircraft structure from this encounter is estimated at $80 million. Four additional encounters between jet aircraft and Redoubt ash clouds occurred in the Anchorage area on December 15 and 16, 1989 and February 21, 1990; none resulted in engine failure. Two additional encounters took place on December 17, 1989 when jet airliners encountered the Redoubt cloud over west Texas. At the time of these encounters, the cloud was up to 55 hours old and had traveled in excess of 2,900 nautical miles (5,300 km).

Following the December 15 encounters, Anchorage International Airport remained open, however, most airline companies canceled operations for up to several days. As communications between Federal agencies and airlines improved, and as a better understanding of the nature and behavior of ash-rich eruption clouds was achieved, most airlines resumed normal service by early January 1990. The resulting loss of revenue at Anchorage International Airport during several months following the eruption is estimated to total $2.6 million. The impact on general aviation and military operations consisted mostly of cancellation and rerouting of flights.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The 1989-1990 eruption of Redoubt Volcano, Alaska: impacts on aircraft operations
Series title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
DOI 10.1016/0377-0273(94)90038-8
Volume 62
Issue 1-4
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Volcano Hazards Program
Description 16 p.
First page 301
Last page 316
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Cook inlet, Redoubt Volcano
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