Tuesday, March 29, 2016

They Shut Down!

Wing, Plane, Flying, Airplane, Sky  If you read this blog on a regular basis, you'll know I live in the huge state of Alaska.  It is bigger than Texas and California.  It is a state that has fewer roads than any other state.  The airplane is the workhorse that carries people, mail, and groceries to villages that dot the state.

Well this past Sunday, a volcano erupted down in the Aleutian chain, south of a tiny place called Cold Bay.  The volcano, Pavlof, spewed ash 20,000 feet into the air.  This cloud continued upward and outward blanketing the atmosphere.

I realize some of you are wondering what the big deal is about a volcanic eruption.  Unfortunately, due to the way the prevailing winds blew the ask, most of the routes in the state were effected and air travel closed down.  The biggest airline, Alaska Air, ended up canceling flights to the major cities of Barrow/Deadhourse, Bethel, Kotzebue, Nome, Fairbanks, and other hubs.

Many of the regional airlines also  shut down because of the ash, so not much flew in the state for 24 to 30 hours.  It can be dangerous to fly when there is volcanic ash floating in the air because the ash itself is used as an industrial abrasive.  If the ash gets into the engine, it can cause the engine to shut down.  Its like flying into a sand blaster.

According to my neighbor who was trying to fly out of town yesterday, nothing flew because of the ash.  I thought the flights were cancelled due to the nasty wind outside that blew enough snow across the landscape that one of my coworkers had to dig herself out.  Apparently, she opened the door to a wall of snow and needed to move some of it before she could escape her house.

Airlines are careful around volcanic eruptions due to the possibility of crashes.  Back in 1989, when Mt Redoubt blew, a KLM flight ended up with enough ash in the engine that it quit and the plane lost altitude before the pilots were able to start the engines again.

After living up here for many years, I don't mind when airlines err on the side of caution.  I'd rather get to my destination in one piece than not make it at all.  Yes, I do grouse about delays but I still am relieved they are cautious.  Have a great day.

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