Due to the large increase in air-traffic during the last ten years, airplanes are now at a getter risk of encountering a volcanic ash cloud. For example, in 1982 a British airline Boeing-747 was flying at a height of 12,200m.
The aircraft had departed Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia and was en-route to Perth, Australia when unexpectedly it began to lose altitude due to sudden engine failure. The pilots were able to re-establish power to one of engines but were only able to maintain an altitude of 4620 m. In addition, two other planes were forced to land in Jakarta, Indonesia. These incidents were due to the effect of ash erupted from Galunggung volcano near the path of international air-routes, which connect Asia and Australia.
Three weeks later, a Singaporean airline Boeing-747 entered a volcanic ash cloud practically in the same place as the earlier British aircraft. The plane was forced to land because of failure of two of its four engines.

On December 15, 1989 a Boeing-747 flying from Amsterdam with 231 passengers and 13 crewmen on board started to descend from the cruising altitude in order to land in Anchorage, Alaska, USA. The plane was at a height of 7500 m, and was flying a distance of 240 km from Redoubt volcano, when suddenly it entered an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption. As a result, all four engines died. After eight minutes, and with only 2000 m to land, the pilots finally were able to restart the engines. After the aircraft landed, over 60 kg of volcanic ash was removed from each turbine-engine. All four engines, as well as the navigation system, and electric system had to be completely replaced. The loss to the airline due to this incident was over 80 million dollars.
Over two-thirds of all active volcanoes are in the Northern hemisphere with most of the volcanic eruptions occurring in the Pacific region. Therefore, the volcanoes of the Pacific region pose a serious threat to the high volume of air-traffic flying overhead. In Alaska alone, with in the past 40 years, there have been four serious incidents where planes have encountered ash clouds. Three of which have occurred during the last 15 years. There are several tens of such incidents that have occurred worldwide.

The problem of maintaining flight safety during a volcanic eruption with ash falls has received much attention all over the world. This problem is studied by specialists in the Colombia, France, Great Britain, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, USA, as well as other countries, including Russia. In Russia, the Kamchatka peninsula has 30 active volcanoes, twelve of which have erupted during the last 10 years. There is a very high volume of Russian and international air-traffic over the volcanically active Kamchatka Peninsula. The airport of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is an international one. International air routes, located to the east of Kamchatka, connect Anchorage (USA) with countries of Southeast Asia and transport more then 30,000 passengers daily. The high volume of air-traffic over the volcanically active Kamchatka peninsula makes the problem of insuring flight safety during volcanic eruption with ash falls an urgent one, not only for Kamchatka but for all passengers flying over the North Pacific.

The Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT) was established in 1993 by the Institute of Volcanic Geology and Geochemistry of FED RAS (IVGG FED RAS) in close cooperation with the Kamchatkan Branch of Geophysical Surveys of RAS (KBGS RAS) and the joint efforts of the Alaska Volcanic Observatory (AVO), the US Geological Survey (USGS), the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (GI-UAF) and the Alaska Department of Geological and Geophysical Services (ADGGS). An information list on KVERT operations in English was published in October 2002: http://www.avo.alaska.edu/pdfs/usgsfs064-02.pdf; and in April 2003 in Russian: http://geopubs.wr.usgs.gov/fact-sheet/fs064-02/fs064-02/fs064-02russian.pdf.

Currently, KVERT is the official and authorized source of information on volcanic activity in the Russian Federation for international air navigation services and airspace users. If volcano eruptions and volcanic ash clouds pose a threat to air traffic, KVERT releases VONA (Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation) in the format defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). KVERT send VONA to Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAACs) of Tokyo, Anchorage, Washington, Montreal and Darwin; Meteocenters of the airport Elizovo, Japan and China; The Federal Aviation Service (FAS) of Russia, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the largest air companies in the Pacific region, etc., and also post on the KVERT website: http://www.kscnet.ru/ivs/kvert/. To determine the degree of volcanic danger for aviation, KVERT applies the Aviation color code (Yellow, Green, Orange and Red) developed by ICAO.

KVERT conducts daily video-visual and satellite monitoring of volcanoes. At present, round-the-clock video surveillance is carried out behind the volcanoes Sheveluch, Klyuchevskoy, Bezymianny, Avachinsky, Koryaksky, Gorely. Satellite monitoring is carried out using the most up-to-date information technologies - the information system “Remote monitoring of the activity of Kamchatka and Kuriles volcanoes (VolSatView)”, which allows using various satellite systems to track the movement of ash clouds from volcanoes in real time, the preparation of eruptions, etc. The information system was created in 2011-2014 the joint efforts of the scientists of KVERT IVS FEB RAS, the Space Research Institute RAS, the Computing Center FEB RAS and the Far Eastern Scientific Center Planet, it continues to evolve.

Air-traffic in the North Pacific region will continue to increase during the next ten years. The chances that an aircraft will encounter an ash clouds are quite high. Such encounters are extremely dangerous and could lead to expensive repair or even worse - to fatal end. The work of KVERT has become even more important in reducing the risk of possible deadly encounters of aircraft with ash clouds during volcanic eruption. To accomplish this task, KVERT is working on expanding and improving observations of the volcanoes of Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands and the possibilities of preventing their eruptions.

©Photo by Yu. Demyanchuk