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Volcanic ash cloud hovering over New Zealand

More airlines resume flying despite volcanic ash cloud

Jun 13, 2011

More airlines are preparing to resume flying despite forecasts the volcanic ash cloud hovering in New Zealand skies could stick around for another few days.

Virgin Australia is about to resume some of the flights that had been affected by the ash cloud that travelled to New Zealand after the eruption of Mt Puyehue Cordon Caulle volcano in Chile.

Jetstar is due to review whether or not it will resume flights early this afternoon.

Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand have continued to operate normally with Air NZ flying at a lower altitude where required.

Air travel here and in Australia has been thrown into turmoil after a plume of volcanic ash from the eruption forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at airports.

Qantas has cancelled 56 flights, including all operations out of Melbourne and Auckland from 6pm last night.

Earlier it halted all trans-Tasman flights into Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington, as well as 14 flights in and out of Tasmania.

About 8000 people were affected by last night's cancellations, a Qantas spokeswoman said.

An extra 2000 travellers are likely to be affected by the cancellation Qantas made today to flights in and out of Tasmania and New Zealand.

The Australian Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) has advised airspace over Tasmania, Melbourne and New Zealand continues to be affected.

Civil Aviation Authority meteorology manager Peter Lechner says the situation today will be much the same as yesterday with ash over most of the country.

He says some of the plume will move off to the south east and there will be a bit of a clearance to the west of the South Island later in the day.

Lechner says as long as the volcano is erupting, there will be pockets of ash drifting over New Zealand.

The fine particles of ash pose a danger to aircraft bodies and engines.

The volcano began erupting on June 4, throwing air travel in South America into chaos, as it threw initial ash plume to well above 15,240 metres into the atmosphere.

Low flying 'safe'

The Civil Aviation Authority is satisfied passengers on Air New Zealand flights flying under ash cloud are not at risk.

Bill Sommer from the CAA told TV ONE's Breakfast that the ash cloud that is disrupting hundreds of flights is likely to remain for at least the next 24 hours and was now stretching across most of the country.

"Air NZ is happy that they are remaining clear of the ash cloud, and at the moment we are happy that is safe for the passengers," he said.

Sommer said the individual airline makes a call on whether or not to fly.

"We provide the volcanic ash information to the airlines and it's up to airlines to make their own operational decisions about whether they are going to fly," he said.

Air NZ said it will continue flying at the lower altitude of 5800 metres (18,000 feet) to remain below the ash cloud or else take a different flight path to avoid it.

"The ash has travelled a great distance at high altitude and remains present at distinct altitude bands between 20,000-35,000 feet," Air NZ chief pilot, David Morgan said.
Sommer said that that at the moment the ash does not look likely to into the path of Air NZ flights.

But the volcano is still erupting and we will keep on watching as long as it continues, he said.

More airlines resume flying despite volcanic ash cloud
Image via AP


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