Aerial Views

Volcan de Fuego, Guatemala.

© Captain S. Landry

There is no better opportunity to see nature’s mighty forces than sitting comfortably and safely in your airline seat watching the scene unfolds.

The story behind th picture

Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) in Guatemala is showing an eruption in this stunning aerial photography.

The picture was taken on an airline flight en route to the U.S. by Captain Sam Laundry.

It ended up becoming an award-picture in the Airline Pilot Magazine. The magazine is a monthly issue published by the renowned Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). ALPA, a strong and proud pilot’s Union represents the majority of U.S. airline pilots.


Volcan de Fuego is located about 9.9 miles, or 16 kilometers west of Antigua, which is Guatemala’s top tourist destination. The volcano’s distance from Guatemala’s capital Guatemala City is 27.3 miles, or 44 kilometers.

Volcano type

The volcano is a type that stays active almost continuously. One can expect minor eruptions of gas and ashes once every 15 to 20 minutes. Larger eruptions don’t happen often.

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The elevation of the volcano is 12,346 feet, or 3,763 meters.

Early exploration

The earliest exploring of this volcano started in 1881, when a Frenchman climbed the volcano. The Frenchman, a writer, with the name Eugenio Dussaussay got permission to climb the peak from the governor of the Sacatepequez-region of Guatemala.

Since the volcano’s central peak had a recent larger eruption in 1881 Dussaussay and his climbing companion Tadeo Trabanino were not able to find any local guide willing to do the climb with them.

Thus they ascended the dangerous climb to the central peak on their own.

British archeologist Alfred Percival Maudslay subsequently ascended the volcano in 1892. he later featured his story in his report “A Glimpse at Guatemala”.

Vulcan of Fire 1899
This is an 1899 photograph of the Volcan de Fuego summit. It was taken by Alfred Percival Maudslay.

Eruptions and evacuations since 1932

  • November 20, 2018: Approximately 4,000 people were evacuated from nearby communities as a preventive measure following increased danger of a larger eruption.
  • June 3, 2018: This eruption resulted in at least 159 deaths and at least 300 injuries. 256 persons were reported missing, while evacuations took place. Guatemala City Airport (GUA) ended up closing from the dangers of falling ash.
  • February 8, 2015: Again the nearby Guatemala City Airport was closed and 100 residents were evacuated because of falling ash.
GUA airport terminal
GUA Airport Terminal
  • September 13, 2012: A massive evacuation of thousands of people took place when a violent eruption of lava and ash began. About 33,000 residents had to leave their homes in 17 different villages close to the volcano. The lava flow ejection only reached about 2,000 feet down the volcano’s slope, saving the villages further down, for this time.
  • August 9, 2007: Seven families living closest to the volcano were evacuated from their homes. Fortunately, this eruption never developed into anything more than a small one.
  • July 1-6, 2004: Small eruptions, but internal explosions, which sounded terrifying to people in the surrounding areas.
  • October 15-21 1974: Heavy agricultural losses incurred after a strong eruption. Lava wiped out all the vegetation in the vicinity of the active volcanic cone.
  • 1932: The volcano had a strong eruption that engulfed the city of Antigua in ash.

More stunning (ground-level) photos

If you want to follow Eugenio Dussaussay and Alfred Maudsley’s footsteps you can actually tour Volcan de Fuego yourself! The volcano has its own website, where you can get more information.

Of course, you won’t be admiring this majestic sight from the comfort and safety of your airline seat, but if you feel more inclined to experience potential danger adventure I would definitely recommend a tour there!

Oh, by the way, if you do decide to take the tour, please report to us about your experiences here.

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