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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 29 active volcanoes, nine of which have erupted during the last 10 years. There is a very high volume of both domestic 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 10,000 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). At that time, V. Yr. Kirianov was the group leader.
KVERT sent more than 700 information releases regarding Kamchatka volcanic activity to all interested services including the largest airlines of the world, volcanic observatories and weather services.
Every week, and in the case of strong eruptions several times a day, KVERT sends information regarding Kamchatka volcanic activity to the Federal Aviation Service (FAS) of Russia as well as the largest airlines of the world.

Here in Kamchatka, the information is sent to the authorities of the Yelizovo Airport Meteorological Center (AMC), the Kamchatka Hydro-Meteorological Center (KHMC), and the Kamchatka Branch of the Ministry for Emergency Situations (KB MES), local mass media and local authorities and to all other interested services. The AMC is responsible for notifying the Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), which is, in turn, responsible for creating volcanic ash hazard report to aviation operators. AVO developed a level-of-concern color code for Alaskan volcanoes according to which we evaluate the hazards for Kamchatka volcanoes. KVERT Information Releases are posted to the ftp-server:
http://www.avo.alaska.edu/activity/avoreport.php?view=kaminfo.
KVERT conducts visual, satellite, and seismic monitoring of Kamchatkan volcanoes.

Daily observations are made possible by continuously recording webcams: since October 9, 2000 at Klyuchevskoy volcano, since May 17, 2002 at Sheveluch volcano and since August 20, 2003 at Bezymianny volcano. Real-time images of the volcanoes can be viewed at: http://data.emsd.iks.ru/videosvl/videosvl.htm.
In September 1998, KVERT agreed to monitor the status of the Northern Kurile volcanoes (Ebeko, Chikurachki, Alaid) and volcanoes on Paramushir and Atlasov Islands in case of explosive eruption. Since April 2003, KVERT accounts for flight safety in the area of the North Kuriles. In September 2004, the Sakhalin Volcanic Eruption Response Team (SVERT) was established by the Sakhalin Institute of Marine Geology and Geophysics. SVERT monitors active volcanoes and insures flight safety in the area of South and Central Kuriles.
The Anchorage International Airport is one of the largest in the world. Today the number of aircraft flying through Kamchatka and Aleutian Islands air-space has doubled. In recent years, North Korea has opened its airspace and the exchange of goods between the USA and China has increases dramatically (in 1998, the exchange was valued at 60 million dollars).

Every day over 700 planes transporting some thousands of passengers fly in the area of Kamchatka volcanoes influence. Therefore, AVO and the Anchorage International Airport require prompt information on the status of Kamchatka volcanoes. In the event of volcanic eruption where the ash cloud poses a threat to air-traffic, it is most certainly better to delay a flight or to alter the flight path, than to suffer the losses which could number into the many millions of dollars.
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.

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. KVERT and its partners, including the USGS are developing a network of seismic stations, system of video observations, as well as analyzing satellite data in order to improve eruption forecasting of the volcanoes of Kamchatka and the Kuriles.

©Photo by Yu. Demyanchuk



 
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