Flights were grounded yesterday as a volcano blasted an ash plume high into commercial airspace.
This volcano is neither in Indonesia nor Iceland. Mount Pavlof, one of Alaska’s most active volcanoes, blasted into new life on Sunday, pumping a 11,300-metre ash cloud into the upper atmosphere.
The eruption has grounded flights and affected thousands of travellers.
Mt Pavlof erupts
Authorities are twitchy about Alaskan volcanoes. The eruption of another Alaskan volcano, Mount Redoubt, in December 1989 flamed out the jet engines of a KLM flight carrying 231 passengers. That plane, a B747-400 combi just six months old, lost power in all four engines and dropped more than two miles before pilots restarted the engines and landed safely. (See dramatic transcript below.)
The eruption on Sunday of Mt Pavlof forced Seattle-based Alaska Airlines to cancel 41 flights yesterday, affecting six cities in the state, including all flights to and from Fairbanks, the Guardian reported. Strong winds spread the plume over more than 650 kilometres. The airline said the cancelled flights affected 3300 passengers.
Alaska Airlines was running the following notice on its website yesterday:
Travel advisory: Pavlof volcano
Due to the recent Pavlof volcano eruption in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, we are offering the following waiver if you prefer to change, postpone, or cancel your plans.
All passengers with tickets to/from or through Nome, Kotzebue, Bethel, Deadhorse, Barrow, and Fairbanks
Tickets Purchased On/Before
March 28, 2016
Original Travel Dates
March 28, 2016 – March 29, 2016
We will waive the change fees and the difference in the price of the ticket if the new travel is booked to or from the affected cities in the same cabin and completed on or before March 31, 2016. You may request a refund if you choose not to travel at all. Tickets must be exchanged or refunded on or before March 31, 2016. For more information, please visit our blog.
- Minors traveling unaccompanied will not be accepted into or through the affected cities during this period.
- Pets traveling in the hold or shipped via Alaska – Air Cargo will not be accepted on flights to/from the affected cities during this period.
- Passenger traveling with their pets in the cabin will be accepted on flights to/from the above cities.
- Hotel/Food/Ground Transportation amenities will not be provided by Alaska Airlines.
As always, we advise you to check your flight status before departure. If your flight has been affected, you may rebook your flight, apply for a refund or call Alaska Airlines Reservations at 1-800-252-7522 (if calling from within Mexico, call 001-800-252-7522).
Sign up for Trip Alerts or Flight Status Alerts and we’ll notify you of any last minute delays, cancellations, or gate changes on your flights by email or text message.
Finally, for aviation enthusiasts, the following edited transmissions took place between Anchorage Centre, the air traffic control facility for that region, and KLM flight 867, a Boeing 747-400 combi, just six months old, flying from Amsterdam to Narita, during the eruption of Mount Redoubt in December 1989:
Pilot: KLM 867 heavy is reaching level 250 heading 140.
Anchorage Centre: Okay, Do you have good sight on the ash plume at this time?
Pilot: Yeah, it’s just cloudy it could be ashes. It’s just a little browner than the normal cloud.
Pilot: We have to go left now: it’s smoky in the cockpit at the moment, sir.
Anchorage Centre: KLM 867 heavy, roger, left at your discretion.
Pilot: Climbing to level 390, we’re in a black cloud, heading 130.
Pilot: KLM 867 we have flame out all engines and we are descending now!
Anchorage Centre: KLM 867 heavy, Anchorage?
Pilot: KLM 867 heavy, we are descending now: we are in a fall!
Pilot: KLM 867, we need all the assistance you have, sir. Give us radar vectors please!
As noted above, the plane landed safely after falling two miles. All four of its engines failed and pilots managed to restart them.
Written by Peter Needham