SAfrican air traffic back to normal after ash cloud trouble

20th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Air traffic along South Africa's south coast returned to normal Monday after a volcanic ash cloud from Chile grounded dozens of weekend flights around tourist hotspot Cape Town, aviation officials said.

The cloud caused by a volcanic eruption in Chile two weeks ago saw the suspension of flights at airports in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London, as well as one from Johannesburg to London, according to Airports Company South Africa.

"Everything is back to normal and on schedule," spokeswoman Deidre Hendricks said, adding the passenger backlog had been cleared by Monday.

About 25 flights were suspended in Cape Town alone, said the airport's general manager Deon Cloete.

Provincial tourism boss Alan Winde said authorities were continuing to monitor the cloud, which also disrupted flights in Australia on Monday.

The cloud has looped the globe since the eruption, but spared South Africa on its first pass, Winde said.

"It passed south of us the first time around, circled the globe, and entered our airspace the second time around after being pushed north by the cold front."

Ash poses a significant threat to aircraft because once sucked into engines, it can be converted into molten glass under the high temperatures and cause an engine to fail.

© 2011 AFP

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