The largest active volcano in the world has been erupting since Sunday (27)! Have you ever stopped to think that a volcano affects dozens of domestic flights if it’s on commercial routes? That’s exactly what’s happening: Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, erupted for the first time after almost 40 years and is worrying companies, specialists and passengers in the region.
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That’s why the US Department of Transportation is recommending that people check the status of flights to Hilo and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airports.
The recommendation is a safety measure, as soot expelled by volcanoes can cause serious damage. Although the US Federal Administration is monitoring volcanic eruptions to issue air traffic alerts, aircraft encounters with the smoke cloud could still happen.
This is because, according to the US Geological Survey, soot clouds are difficult to detect due to their similarity to normal clouds both visually and by radar.
Why does volcano ash affect flights?
In addition to hindering visibility, these clouds can cause numerous damages, such as damage to windshields, engines and ventilation, hydraulic and electronic systems of aircraft. For this very reason, for Airbus, the flight between clouds of soot is not oriented.
This is because the particles present in the clouds expelled by volcanoes have a melting point much lower than the temperature at which the engines reach. Upon contact with him, they melt immediately. In the turbine, this material cools and solidifies and sticks to the blades, impeding the flow of high-pressure combustion gases.
There is a history that supports this concern of the company and the authorities. Near-fatal incidents have occurred because of soot. In 1982 a flight leaving London, UK, towards Auckland, New Zealand, encountered a cloud of ash spewed by a volcano on the island of Java, Indonesia. The encounter resulted in the failure of all four of the plane’s engines. Luckily, the situation was managed and the aircraft managed to land safely at the time.