24 June 1982

CGI illustration of British Airways' Speedbird 9 descending without power, surrounded by St. Elmo's Fire. (Anynobody)

CGI illustration of British Airways’ SPEEDBIRD 9 descending without power, surrounded by St. Elmo’s Fire. (Anynobody)

24 June 1982: British Airways Flight 9, a Boeing 747-236B, City of Edinburgh, registration G-BDXH, with the call sign SPEEDBIRD 9, enroute from London, England to Aukland, New Zealand, was cruising at 37,000 feet (11,278 meters) with 248 passengers and 15 crewmembers. The airliner was under the command of Captain Eric H.J. Moody, with Senior First Officer Roger Greaves and Senior Flight Engineer Barry Townley-Freeman on the flight deck.

At 10:42 p.m., local time (1342 UTC), approximately 110 miles (188 kilometers) south of Jakarta, Indonesia, the airliner’s Number Four engine began surging and then flamed out. A minute later engine Number Two also surged and flamed out. Then, simultaneously, engines One and Three failed as well.

Mount Galunggung during a 1983 eruption. (USGS)

Mount Galunggung during a 1983 eruption. (USGS)

Volcanic dust from erupting Mount Gallanggung had been ingested by the engines and melted inside the combustion chambers, cutting off the airflow and shutting each of them down. With a glide ratio of 15:1, the flight crew turned toward the Indonesian capital while they went through emergency procedures.

Captain Eric Moody, British Airways

Captain Eric Moody, British Airways

Captain Eric Moody made the following announcement to the passengers:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

At 13,500 feet (4,115 meters), the flight crew was finally able to get one engine restarted and soon after a second. Eventually all four engines were running and the 747 began to regain altitude, however Number Two again began to surge so the crew shut it down and they remained at 12,000 feet (3,658 meters).

On approach to Jakarta, though good visibility was reported, the flight crew could barely see the airport lights. It was later determined that the windshield was completely sandblasted by the volcanic dust. SPEEDBIRD 9 safely landed with no injuries. It was repaired and flown back to London where it underwent further, more extensive repairs. The air crew was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air. Guinness Book of Records lists Flight 9 as the longest glide of any aircraft not designed for gliding.

CENTRAL CHANCERY OF
THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD
ST. JAMES’S PALACE, LONDON s.w.i
llth June, 1983

Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service ribbon. (Wikipedia)

THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased, on the
occasion of the Celebration of Her Majesty’s Birthday, to approve the award of The Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air:
The Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service
in the Air
UNITED KINGDOM
Eric Henry John MOODY, Captain, British Airways

Captain Moody served with British Airways for 32 years, retiring in 1996 with over 17,000 flight hours.

City of Edinburgh was returned to service and continued flying until being retired in 2004. It was scrapped at Bournemouth Airport, Dorset, England, in 2009.

British Airways’ Boeing 747-236B, G-BDXH, City of Edinburgh, landing at London Heathrow, 11 September 1994. © Javier Rodriguez

About Bryan Swopes

Bryan R. Swopes grew up in Southern California in the 1950s–60s, near the center of America's aerospace industry. He has had a life-long interest in aviation and space flight. Bryan is a retired commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor.