KLM Flight 867

On 15 December 1989, KLM Flight 867, en route from Amsterdam to Narita International Airport Tokyo, was forced to make an emergency landing at 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.

KLM Flight 867
KLM Boeing 747-400 PH-BFC departing KUL.jpg
PH-BFC, the aircraft involved in the incident, seen wearing the KLM Asia livery in 2008
Date15 December 1989 (1989-12-15)
SummaryQuadruple engine failure due to blockage by volcanic ash
SiteRedoubt Volcano, Anchorage, Alaska
Aircraft typeBoeing 747-406M
Aircraft nameCity of Calgary
Flight originAmsterdam Airport Schiphol, Amsterdam
StopoverAnchorage International Airport, Alaska
DestinationNarita International Airport, Tokyo

Engine failureEdit

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 failed on the first few attempts, and repeated it until restart was achieved. On some of the attempts, as one or more (but not all) engines started to operate, the main generator switched 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!

Recovery and aftermathEdit

The crew of KL867 investigating the damage caused to PH-BFC by the ash cloud

After descending more than 14,000 feet (4267 metres), the crew restarted the engines and safely landed 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]

KLM continues to operate the Amsterdam-Tokyo route, but as Flight 861 and it is now a nonstop eastbound flight using a Boeing 777. Flight 867 is now used for flights between Amsterdam and Osaka.

The aircraft, PH-BFC, remained in service with KLM until its retirement from the fleet on 14 March 2018.[7] It joined the KLM Asia fleet upon the subsidiary's establishment in 1995 until it was returned to KLM in 2012 and repainted in the standard KLM livery after a maintenance check.[8][9]

Similar incidentsEdit

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 glided out of the ash cloud, restarted its engines (although one failed again shortly), and landed safely.[10]

Other gliding airlinersEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Airfleets summary for Boeing 747 MSN 23982". Airfleets.net. 30 June 1989. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b 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.
  3. ^ ""A look back at Alaska volcano's near-downing of a 747"". Heraldnet.com. 18 April 2010. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  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.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Mauer, Richard (14 January 1990). "Government looks into animals mishap". Anchorage Daily News.
  7. ^ "Deze mega Boeing zien we nooit meer terug". Telegraaf. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  8. ^ "PH-BFC pictures on". Airliners.net. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  9. ^ "PH-BFC KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 747-406(M) Photo by Ger Buskermolen | ID 261869". Planespotters.net. 20 March 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  10. ^ Brennan, Zoe (29 January 2007). "The story of BA flight 009 and the words every passenger dreads..." Daily Mail. Retrieved 16 April 2010.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 61°10′18″N 149°59′12″W / 61.1717°N 149.9867°W / 61.1717; -149.9867