Bali’s Mt. Agung ash poses aviation risk and another measurement opportunity- what is known?

Mt. Agung's eruption
Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin



Bali volcano: Highest-level aviation warning, flights cancelled amid Mt Agung eruption

Major Volcanic disruption in SE Asia

 Aviation has better tools to deal with this risk

This event poses another opportunity to learn


27 November 2017 …“Indonesia has issued its highest-level aviation warning for


flights around Bali as a shifting cloud of volcanic ash closed the airport on the holiday island of Lombok and forced the cancellation of flights for thousands of passengers.

Staff at Indonesia's volcano monitoring centre said it was not just pulverised rock being blown out of Mt Agung, but magma has now reached the volcano's surface.


It is likely the volcano will continue erupting.


Indonesia's disaster management agency said the eruptions were no longer "phreatic", which means they are triggered by 
water hitting superheated rocks and usually short-lived.

They were now magmatic eruptions, the agency said, which means lava has forced its way to the surface.”

The volcano’s location is quite near air traffic sectors known to have heavy airline usage; so, the ATC authorities and 
airlines will closely monitor the plume created by this volcanic event.

This is an image of local, immediate consequences from an eruption from a nearby mountain about 15 years ago. NASA tracked 
the consequences of sustained ash emissions into the atmosphere about 20 years ago.
ATC pattern

In 2010 Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted and provided a lot of data which could be analyzed as to ash’s risk to aviation. Based on that study, better models were developed to predict the track of the plume and the threat level of the particulate matter. Hans Schlager, head of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the German Aerospace Center, said in a statement:

“The key issue for us is to develop an integrated monitoring and response system for future volcanic crises that can be used to respond quickly in the event of the formation of an ash cloud from Iceland.” The new models are being used to avoid the current Icelandic eruption. Predictions as to the complex movement of ash through the air and refinements of the algorithms for routing aircraft around these plumes, they have been able to double the Transatlantic ATC capacity during this most recent eruption day.”

Another scientific/engineering result of the 2010 event was the development by Nicarnica Aviation in Kjeller, Norway of new detection equipment. That machine is an on-board ash detector which warn the pilot in time to adjust the original flight route. Iceland’s Holuhraun eruption is serving as a real ground-based laboratory for the new technology. The sensors have also received air trials from Airbus and EasyJet.

NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Geological Survey took the lead in sponsoring  the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research (VIPR) program.

The VIPR’s goal was to test specialized instruments that monitor the health and efficiency of an engine. The engines were subjected to increasingly abrasive ingestions–from benign particulates such as cereal and crayons to two different concentrations of volcanic ash. At the lower ash concentration, the engine experienced maintenance issues, such as detectable erosion of the compressor blades and glassy buildup on the turbines, but showed no performance issues. At the higher ash concentration, the engine was negatively affected by higher pressure, decreased fuel-flow efficiency, and increased compressor and exhaust temperatures, but even after 14 hours of exposure to the ash, the engine did not critically fail.

The scientists are exploring avoidance, acceptable levels of ingestion, tracking and material tolerance to ash abrasion. While there is no definitive standard set yet, the increased knowledge permits flights within certain ash exposure.


With Mt. Agung’s eruption, the airlines will have better operational guidance and its plume may provide more useful data to avoid the safety risk to engines,








Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

Be the first to comment on "Bali’s Mt. Agung ash poses aviation risk and another measurement opportunity- what is known?"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.