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Cessna Citation Engines Damaged by Volcanic Ash Hoax

Email that features a series of attached photographs depicting a severely damaged jet engine claims that the damage was caused by the aircraft flying through volcanic ash.

Brief Analysis
The photographs of the damaged engine are genuine. However, the damage was not caused by volcanic ash as claimed in the message. The incident that caused the damage took place weeks before air travel was disrupted by the spread of volcanic ash in April 2010. The incident depicted in the photographs occurred in March 2010 and has no connection whatsoever with volcanic ash.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.

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Last updated: 20th May 2010
First published: 20th May 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer

Subject: Volcanic ash and delicate turbine engines........

Here’s what happens to an engine when it's flown through a volcanic ash cloud.

This is a Cessna Citation Jet (CJ2) out of Germany a few weeks ago. Luckily the other engine kept running, although very sluggishly.

Damaged Jet Engine 1 Damaged Jet Engine 6 Damaged Jet Engine 9 Damaged Jet Engine 2

Damaged Jet Engine 3 Damaged Jet Engine 4 Damaged Jet Engine 5 Damaged Jet Engine 7 Damaged Jet Engine 10 Damaged Jet Engine 8

Damaged Jet Engine 12 Damaged Jet Engine 11

Detailed Analysis
This message, which features a series of photographs depicting an extensively damaged jet engine, is currently circulating via email, blogs and social networking websites. According to the text that accompanies the photographs, the damage occurred when the aircraft - a German based Cessna Citation Jet - flew through a cloud of volcanic ash.

The images are genuine photographs. However, they do not show a jet engine damaged by volcanic ash as claimed in the message. In fact, they depict damage caused by an incident involving a Cessna aircraft during a flight in Germany. A report about the incident published by the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation notes:
On March 1, 2010, at 0710 coordinated universal time, a Cessna 525A, German registered D-IEFA, owned by EFD - Eisele Flugdienst GmbH, was damaged when the left engine experienced an uncontained event near Stuttgart, Germany. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the event. The pilot was not injured. The flight originated from Stuttgart, Germany, and was en route to Bremen, Germany.

The German investigators reported that the airplane was en route to Bremen for maintenance. During the climb, the left engine experienced an uncontained event. The flight returned to Stuttgart and landed without further incident.
The report makes no mention of ash, noting that "visual meteorological conditions" - that is, conditions in which pilots have sufficient visibility to fly an aircraft while maintaining visual separation from terrain and other aircraft - prevailed at the time of the event. An "uncontained event" is aviation terminology for an event in which engine components exit the engine at high speed as opposed to an incident in which broken engine components are contained within the engine casing or exit relatively harmlessly via the tailpipe.

A photograph of the same aircraft taken before the mishap can be viewed on the website. The livery (paint scheme) shown in this photograph is clearly the same as that shown in the last photograph in the above sequence. Part of the first letter of the aircraft's registration number (D) is also visible in the above photograph. Given this evidence, there can be little doubt that the aircraft discussed in the German Aircraft Accident report quote above is indeed the aircraft shown in the circulating photographs.

A post on the Flightglobal blog page also dismisses the claims in the message as false.

Although the text of the message does not specifically say so, most recipients would assume that the volcanic ash cloud discussed in the message refers to ash from the Icelandic volcano that caused massive disruption to air traffic beginning in April 2010. However, the incident that caused the engine damage shown in the photographs occurred weeks before ash from this volcano began to invade the skys of Europe. Thus, the mishap clearly had no connection to April's volcanic ash disruptions.

Moreover, if the engine damage was really caused by volcanic ash as claimed in the message, news outlets around the world would have certainly reported on the incident extensively. In fact, no credible news or media reports back up the claims in the message. The grounding of airlines because of the ash clouds caused massive disruptions to air travel during April 2010 and some have criticised aviation authorities over what they claim was over-cautious handling of the ash problem. Thus, it is improbable to suggest that an incident in which an aircraft's engines were seriously damaged by ash contamination would have gone unreported by the mainstream press.

Thus, it seems that some misguided prankster has simply invented a compelling cover story that has no basis in fact to go with an interesting set of images. Spreading such misinformation is utterly pointless.

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Picture of the Cessna 525A Citation CJ2+ aircraft
Ash cloud Cessna engine damage conspiracy dispelled
Airline Group Slams Europe's Handling of Volcanic Ash Crisis

Last updated: 20th May 2010
First published: 20th May 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer