Warnings About Airborne Volcanic Ash Improved

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Running into volcanic ash aloft might not be high on your list of things to worry about, but a bunch of folks working for our federal agencies are very aware of the dangers and are finding better ways to track dangerous ash plumes so aviators can keep their distance. "The risks include degraded engine performance, flameouts, loss of visibility, failure of critical navigational and operational instruments and loss of life," said Steven Osterdahl, director of en route and oceanic operations in the FAA's Western Service Area. On Wednesday, Osterdahl and others said their new effort, "National Volcanic Ash Operations Plan for Aviation," will improve the safety of flight. The plan sets new interagency standards for warnings and forecasts, and outlines the roles of the various agencies in the aftermath of an eruption.

"The United States is one of the most volcanically rich countries in the world, with 169 active and dormant volcanoes," said U.S. Geological Survey Director Mark Myers. The plan aims to ensure that hazardous ash clouds will be detected, tracked and forecasted and that the aviation community will be properly warned of the hazards.