Sri Lankan aircraft meet Indian dust storm at 33,000 feet

ECONOMYNEXT – SriLankan Airlines aircraft flying as high as 33,000 feet went through dust kicked by a storm in India, disrupting its schedule with engineering scrambling make sure that the planes were safe to fly again, officials said.

Several aircraft flying over Indian airspace went through the dust storm which killed over 100 people in the country.

"We had to check every aircraft that went over the area as they returned," Manager Technical Service Ananda Gajanayake said.

"Small particles can get into sensors and give erroneous indicators to the pilot about airspeed or altitude.

"All aircraft that flew over the area had to under different levels of servicing."

An Airbus A 330 returning from Kuwait had to be grounded for over 12 hours while engineers cleaned clogged probes and systems were re-checked and tested.

Under aviation regulations aircraft are allowed to fly through dust storms unlike volcanic eruptions, but precautions have to be taken to keep the planes safe, SriLankan Airlines Chief Technical Officer Dinnaga Padmaperuma said.

At that altitude aircraft are flying at 33,000 to 39,000 feet and temperatures drop to minus 50 degrees, and ice forms," Padmaperuma.

"So moisture and particles can block readings."

SriLankan Airlines schedule was disrupted as aircraft were checked and flights from Thailand to Australia were delayed. The airline had to accommodate passengers at hotels.





Gajanayake said aircraft returning from the Middle East also goes through sandstorms from time to time, and SriLankan. In addition to probes, engine intakes and other areas also have to inspected and any problems discovered have to be rectified.

"Pilots sometimes report problems," Gajanayake said. "But even otherwise we have to inspect the aircraft."

SriLankan Airlines has a strong safety record and its engineering division also services third party aircraft.  (Colombo/May05/2018)

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