INDONESIA - The Kuala Namu International Airport (KNIA) administrator has warned airlines traveling to North Sumatra to avoid flying over the Mount Sinabung area for safety reasons.
KNIA operational manager Ali Sofyan said a number of airline companies had been warned following the eruption of Mt. Sinabung in Karo regency, North Sumatra. Ali added that the warning was especially aimed at low-flying airliners, such as Susi Air and Wings Air, and helicopters.
"They have been advised not to pass the navigation area near Mt. Sinabung. For the time being, the path is unsafe for flying due to very limited visibility caused by volcanic ash," Ali said on Wednesday.
Ali said he had advised airlines flying to Nias Island, North Sumatra, and Simeuleu Island in Aceh to reroute their flights to avoid the effects of the eruption.
KNIA air traffic controller Susanto said that changing flight paths was aimed at avoiding volcanic ash that normally followed the wind direction. "If the ash blows eastward, then the flight path will be diverted to the west around 8 kilometers from the mountain and at altitudes of between 7,000 and 9,000 feet," Susanto said, adding that low-flying aircraft flew at an altitude of over 4,000 feet and a distance of 4 kilometers from Mt. Sinabung.
KNIA has remained open since the eruption. "Everything remains normal because the volcanic ash from Mt. Sinabung has yet to affect operations at KNIA," he said.
After first erupting on Sunday, Mt. Sinabung erupted again on Tuesday and on Wednesday and discharged huge volumes of volcanic material. A staff member at the Mt. Sinabung observation post, Ahmad Nabawi, confirmed that the volcano erupted again on Wednesday at 2:30 a.m.
"This is the third eruption. More eruptions are likely, but we don't know when," said Nabawi, adding that the third eruption sent volcanic ash up to 1,500 meters into the air.