Re: Garuda A300 crash, volcanic ash, and morons of the media

Date:         24 Oct 97 04:33:14 
From:         faurecm@halcyon.com (C. Marin Faure)
Organization: Northwest Nexus Inc.
References:   1 2 3
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In article <airliners.1997.2472@ohare.Chicago.COM>, Steve Lacker <look@the.sig> wrote:
> Syiad T. Al-Duri wrote:
> > Couldn't it be, that the oxygen concentration in the air was significantly
> > reduced due to the extensive wood fires and thus causing a flameout on all
> > engines?
>
> I suppose that it is *possible*, but I find it highly unlikely. A region
> of air so depleted of oxygen that the engines would be unable to run
> would only be possible *very* close to the fire itself. Besides, "water
> bombers" fly into far worse conditions fighting forest fires in the US
> and Canada regularly. Many of these are piston engined planes (notably
> A-26 <aka B-26> Invaders, and 15 years ago B-17s were still being used
> regularly!) but there are more and more turbine-engined craft involved,
> including C-130s and converted Electras (see http://www.airspray.com for
> a typical fleet composition and deployment procedure). From what I've
> been told, the movie "Always" with Richard Dreyfuss was a fairly
> accurate account of these operations, barring the obvious artistic
> license of dousing another plane with retardant to put out an engine
> fire, running out of fuel, gliding home, etc... :-)

Actually, I have talked to (and read articles by) fire bomber pilots who
used to fly piston bombers like the B-17.  On occasion, these pilots said,
all four engines would quit simultaneously due to oxygen starvation during
a low pass directly over a particularly explosive firestorm in the trees.
The incredibly strong air currents and the voracious appetite for oxygen
by the firestorm sometimes created an oxygen-depleted updraft that could
not sustain a reciprocating engine.  These updrafts were not very wide,
however, and the pilots I talked to all stated that the engines resumed
running within seconds of losing power.  Still a heart-stopper, though...

C. Marin Faure
  author, Flying A Floatplane