Indonesian Volcano Poses Increased Threat to Air Traffic

Dec 27, 2018

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Indonesian authorities have elevated the threat level that Anak Krakatau poses to nearby communities and air traffic. The BBC reports that the disaster management agency in Indonesia (BNPB) has raised the alert from a level two to a level three, the second-highest level possible.

The elevated alert comes amid increased volcanic activity at Anak Krakatau, a volcano located in the Sunda Strait, which caused last week’s fatal tsunami. In addition to a recently expanded (three-mile) exclusion zone around the volcano, flights in the region are being rerouted with concerns of additional airspace closures lingering.

Indonesia’s AirNav air traffic control agency said that 20 to 25 flights have been affected by the volcanic eruption. The agency is on red alert due to the plume of volcanic ash dispersed into the atmosphere as a result of the partial eruption. The affected flights are reportedly traveling to and from Australia, Singapore and various cities in the Middle East.

Indonesia’s largest airport and main international port of entry, Jakarta International Airport (CGK), is roughly 40-50 miles away from the edge of the volcanic ash, which has resulted in longer approach and departure patterns. AirNav Indonesia noted that the current impact has been minimal with the potential of a few diversions or longer flight tracks. The air traffic control agency is still monitoring the situation in the region.

Flights are seen avoiding the volcanic ash from the eruption of Anak Krakatau (Image via Flightradar24)
Flights are seen avoiding the volcanic ash from the eruption of Anak Krakatau. (Image via Flightradar24)

In the past week, two major volcanic eruptions have impacted flights. Three days ago, Mount Etna on the Italian island of Sicily erupted leading to the complete closure of a major airport on the island, Catania Airport (CTA). Flights were canceled, diverted and delayed for hours as a result of Mount Etna’s eruption. Catania Airport has since reopened and operations are back to full capacity.

Volcanic ash, though appearing fine like smoke, consists of very fine particulates that can accumulate on the exterior of an aircraft and in the engines. This accumulation of ash can potentially lead to reduced engine performance and even engine failure or flameout. A noteworthy example of a volcanic eruption resulting in an engine failure was the 1989 incident involving KLM Flight 867, which suffered complete engine failure resulting in an emergency landing at Anchorage International Airport and more than $8 million in damage.

(Featured image by Adek Berry/Contributor/Getty Images)

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