Operations in Crude Oil Smoke: Guidance for Flight Crews

Operations in Crude Oil Smoke: Guidance for Flight Crews


Smoke from crude oil fires can spread over a large area, well beyond the source of a fire(s). Commonly, the smoke will form a thick layer of dense, dark cloud, with a top of 5,000 to 10,000 ft.

Smoke from a crude oil fire is composed of:

  • Oil particles
  • Soot
  • Gases with a high sulphur content


  • Severe Turbulence can be expected in a pyrocumulous cloud and the cloud may contain ash from the fire.
  • Operation of engines and aircraft systems should not be immediately adversely affected by the smoke, but prolonged exposure will lead to airframe and systems contamination.
  • Smoke or Fumes in the flight deck or cabin may result in breathing discomfort and /or irritation of the eyes.
  • Reduced forward visibility in the cloud and reduced visibility due to contamination of windscreens.
  • Reduced range of nav/comm radios
  • Possible contamination of pitot static system causing unreliable airspeed indications


  • Crew/Passenger to don oxygen masks and smoke goggles as appropriate.
  • Monitor engine parameters and note and report any parameter shift to maintenance.
  • Try to fly clear of the cloud, either by climbing or descending or avoiding the cloud laterally.


Related Articles

Further Reading



SKYbrary Partners:

Safety knowledge contributed by: