Air New Zealand cancelled all flights to Napier yesterday to avoid the threat of volcanic ash clogging aircraft engines.
Services to eastern North Island centres affected by the ash cloud, including Gisborne, Rotorua, Taupo, Napier and Palmerston North, were either cancelled or rescheduled in the morning.
Services were back to normal by early afternoon, with the exception of Napier.
Air New Zealand spokeswoman Marie Hosking could not say how many passengers were affected by the disruption, or how big the backlog of stranded passengers to and from Napier was.
However, the problem was compounded yesterday afternoon by the grounding of Air New Zealand's 19-seater Beech 1900D regional fleet after cracks were found in the tail of some planes.
Air New Zealand chief pilot captain David Morgan said flight routes were adjusted to ensure aircraft remained clear of any ash.
“We will not fly through ash and are constantly taking guidance from the CAA and MetService to ensure we can continue to carry passengers where safe routes and altitudes are available.”
Volcanic ash can scour and clog jet and turboprop engines, in extreme cases causing them to lose power.
In 1982 a British Airways jet lost power in all four engines after flying through a dense ash cloud above the Indian Ocean. As the Boeing 747 with 247 passengers glided out of the ash, its pilots were able to restart the severely damaged engines and land safely.
Ash from a Chilean volcano disrupted air travel in New Zealand and Australia last year.
Ruapehu's two skifields, Whakapapa and Turoa, were open for business and unaffected by the eruption yesterday.
Whakapapa area manager Steve McGill said the eruption was about 20 kilometres away and the ash was being blown away from Mt Ruapehu. “The only effect that it could have would be if the wind changed and we had a bit of ash come this way, which would be no good to our snow cover, obviously.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
How would you rate your mathematical skill?Related story: Kiwi maths performance concerns