Volcanic Ash Causes Aircraft To Stay Grounded

Volcanic ash from the recently erupted Sangeang Api volcano off the north-east coast of Sumbawa in Indonesia caused a major problem for flights in and out of Darwin over the weekend, and finally those flights have resumed. Unfortunately, flights in and out of Bali are now being kept on the ground because of the volcanic ash, according to ABC News.

The huge ash cloud is now drifting toward Denpasar in the west, but the volcanic ash is still causing issues. Jetstar made the decision to cancel its flights in and out of Bali, and Federal Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss said that the ash could cause problems for flights as far away as Brisbane.

Truss also said that Airservices Australia's National Operations Centre is communicating with airlines in order to keep disruption at a minimum and to keep travelers updated about the situation. He also said that any decisions about grounded flights due to the volcanic ash are made by each airline.

While many of the 31 flights that had been grounded due to the volcanic ash had resumed operations, travelers were still urged to check with their airlines in case of any changes, according to The Austrailian.

Bri MacPherson from the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre said, "At this stage the volcano has been erupting to low levels - to about four kilometres [approximately two and a half miles] above the surface - and that ash has been moving to the west and to the south west."

The Sangeang Api volcano has been erupting since Friday. The volcano last erupted 15 years ago. This time it sent a huge plume of ash over 6 miles high into the sky. Slow moving winds means the ash cloud is moving slowly through airspace.

The manager of the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, Emile Jansons, said that the volcanic ash poses no threat to humans on the ground and would not likely be seen with the naked eye.

Volcanic ash affects aircraft adversely because the ash could potentially melt in the hot section of an airplane's engine. This could cause the engine to fail when it becomes encased in a glass-like coating from the melted ash. It can also clog the cooling and fuel systems, and the volcanic ash is very abrasive to engine parts and the body of the aircraft.

Volcanic ash has long been a nuisance to the aviation industry. According to the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, volcanic ash has cost the aviation industry over $250 million dollars since 1982.

[Photo: EPA]