Mt Ruang eruption: Volcanic ash in Kota Kinabalu FIR affects multiple air routes, airports

PETALING JAYA: Volcanic ash observed within the Kota Kinabalu flight information region (FIR) due to the Mount Ruang volcano eruption in north Sulawesi, Indonesia had affected multiple air routes and airports in the region, says Datuk Capt Norazman Mahmud.

"Volcanic ash clouds have been observed within the Kota Kinabalu FIR, posing a significant risk to aircraft safety.

"The eruption prompted the issuance of Significant Meteorological (SIGMET) 1 by the Malaysian Meteorological Department at 6am Malaysia local time, indicating the presence of ash clouds moving westerly at speed of 30 knots from the surface to 55,000 feet and intensifying.

ALSO READ: Mt Ruang eruption: MAHB advises travellers to check with airlines for up-to-date flight info

"This has affected multiple air routes and airports in the region," the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia's chief executive officer said in a safety notice issued to airlines operators here on Thursday (April 18).

"Airports within the affected area, including Tawau and Lahad Datu, should implement measures to mitigate the impact of volcanic ash on ground operations, such as regular monitoring of runway conditions and implementing appropriate cleaning procedures," he added.

ALSO READ: Mt Ruang: Last eruptions before Wednesday occurred in 2002, 1949

He said that the volcanic ash clouds could cause severe damage to aircraft engines and aircraft systems, leading to potential engine failure, reduced visibility, and damage to critical components.

"The volcanic ash can also interfere with aircraft avionics, posing a serious threat to flight safety.

"Therefore, aviation stakeholders must exercise extreme caution and implement appropriate measures to mitigate the risks associated with volcanic ash encounters," he added.

ALSO READ: Malaysia Airlines cancels Sabah, Sarawak flights due to Mt Ruang eruption

Mount Ruang, a stratovolcano, first erupted at 9:45pm on April 16 and four times on Wednesday (April 17).

The last eruption of Mount Ruang in Sulawesi, Indonesia, before April 17 was from Sept 25 to 29 in 2002, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

Norazman said air operators are advised to closely monitor meteorological updates, volcanic ash advisories and Notice to Airmen (NOTAMs) issued by relevant authorities.

"Pilots should exercise vigilance and adhere strictly to established procedures and guidelines for avoiding volcanic ash encounters, including diverting flight paths, emergency response plans, altering altitudes, and maintaining communication with air traffic control," added Capt Norazman.

ALSO READ: AirAsia cancels Sabah, Sarawak flights due to Sulawesi volcano eruption

He said that air traffic controllers are to maintain a constant watch on the development of the ash cloud, update routes and altitude clearances as necessary to maintain aviation safety.

"This includes providing timely and continuous updates to all affected aircraft about changes in the ash cloud’s location, density, and expected movements," he said.

CAAM also advised air traffic controllers to coordinate with adjacent air traffic controller units to manage reroutes effectively, ensuring seamless transitions for aircraft entering or exiting the affected flight region.

ALSO READ: Mt Ruang eruption: Passengers at Kota Kinabalu airport caught in limbo

"In addition to being prepared to implement emergency procedures for aircraft experiencing difficulties due to ash, such as prioritising landings, allow for flexible use of airspace and coordination of potential diversions," he added.

He advised airline passengers to stay informed about flight status updates provided by airlines and to exercise patience and flexibility in their travel plans.

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Mt Ruang , Volcano , Eruption , Ash , Air Routes , Airports


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