Saturday, April 17, 2010

Aviation Hazards from Volcanic Ash - John Seach

The grounding of 17,000 flights from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland highlights the hazard of volcanoes to aircraft. The total closure of British airspace is unprecedented. Since 1980 about 5 airports per year have been affected by eruptions. The largest number of closures have occurred at Catania (Sicily), Anchorage (Alaska), Quito (Ecuador), and Tokua (Papua New Guinea). About 20% of the airports closed were more than 500 km from the volcano. Since 1973 there have been at least 100 incidents involving aircraft and volcanic ash emissions. In 1982 an aircraft flying over Galunggung volcano in Indonesia lost power from all four engines, and descended 12,000 ft before the engines were restarted. In 1989 an aircraft flying over Redoubt volcano in Alaska encountered volcanic ash, damaging engines, which required replacing. The current situation in Europe will need to be analysed to determine if the widespread airport closures were an overraction, or justified based on volcanic activity. Caution is always advised when it comes to volcanic activity, but what will be the response next time this type of event occurs? The last eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano lasted for more than a year, so there is a possibility that more ash emissions will occur.
More on Eyjafjallajokull volcano...