Volcano ash threat to air traffic

Last updated 14:11 24/12/2012
Copahue volcano

STACK BLOWN: Locals watch a column of smoke and ash rise from the Copahue volcano, located on the Chilean-Argentine border.

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A familiar threat to New Zealand air traffic is emerging from a mountain 10,000 kilometres away.

The Andes Copahue volcano on the Argentinian-Chilean border has started erupting, sending up ash and gas high into the atmosphere.

When the Cordon Caulle volcano erupted in June this year, the ash reached New Zealand about three weeks later, forcing some airlines to curtail flights.

While Air New Zealand continued its flights, although at a lower flight level, Qantas and Jetstar suspended domestic services on both sides of the Tasman.

The BBC reported Copahue started erupting on Saturday and sent a plume of smoke and ash up about 1500 metres.

The ash plume has gone over Chile and aviation authorities in South America have warned fliers to avoid the area.

Auckland has direct flights to Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires in Argentina but they have yet to be affected.

The June ash which hit Australia and New Zealand moved from west to east before reaching here.

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