MIAMI – The small Spanish island’s La Palma Airport (SPC) is closed, preventing some residents from leaving as a new volcanic emission vent forms and red hot lava blasts far into the air on the island in the Atlantic.

La Palma Airport is located in Brea Baja and Villa de Mazo, 8 kilometers south of the city of Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands. Aeropuertos Espaoles y Navegación Aérea (AENA), which operates the bulk of civil airports in Spain, operates SPC.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano, which began erupting last Sunday, entered a new explosive phase today, spewing thousands of tons of lava out of a new west-facing vent. The volcano has already destroyed hundreds of homes, causing the evacuation of over 6,000 people, and now forced the closure of the island’s airport, according to Spanish airport operator AENA.

Binter Canarias (NT), which, along with Iberia (IB) canceled all flights to La Palma on Friday, and CanaryFly (PM), primarily serve SPC with island-hopping flights from Tenerife and Gran Canaria, although there are also flights to major European cities and charter flights from Germany, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and the Netherlands.

As travelers arrived at SPC today, they were welcomed with the news that they would not be able to leave the island. They looked on as airport workers brushed volcanic ash off the runway, electronic boards displayed canceled flights, and the departures hall was quiet.

Although SPC says the situation can change at any moment, some travelers will have to stay two more nights on the island because there are no flights to Tenerife – the next one is on Monday, according to one of the stranded passengers due to fly out today.

Photo: Iberia

Jet Engine Tolerance to Airborne Particles

There are strict limits on how much ash a jet engine may absorb without causing damage. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), in collaboration with engine manufacturers, issued revised criteria in 2010 that enabled aircraft to fly when volcanic ash levels were between 200 and 2,000 micrograms (2 milligrams) per cubic meter.

The CAA later increased the safe limit to 4 milligrams per cubic meter of air space. A no-fly zone is defined as any airspace where the ash density exceeds this criterion. The CAA then announced the introduction of a new type of restricted airspace called a Time Limited Zone to reduce the amount of disturbance caused by this and other volcanic eruptions.

A year before the pandemic, SPC handled 22,033 operations with 1,420,277 passengers. 565 tonnes of cargo were transported. La Palma, with a population of over 83,000, is one of an archipelago making up the Canary Islands.

Featured image: .Canaryfly EC-MHJ ATR 72-500. Photo: Pablo Gonzalez/Airways. Article sources: Yahoo, Aena.