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A volcano erupted on the Spanish island of La Palma on Sunday.

As a result, aircraft were temporarily unable to fly.

There was too much ash from the volcano above the island.

That ash is very dangerous for airplanes.

But why actually?

An erupting volcano spews lava, rocks and ash with great force.

Lava flows down from the volcano.

The ash can get very high in the sky and form a cloud.

We call this an ash cloud.

The wind can sometimes carry an ash cloud for tens of kilometers.

Ash from a volcano is made up of tiny particles of rock and glass.

These particles are smaller than 2 millimeters.

Volcanic ash is nothing like the ash produced by a fire.

Volcanic ash is hard and does not dissolve in water.

Aviation expert Joris Melkert knows how dangerous it is when an airplane flies through an ash cloud.

"Airplanes are not made to fly through this," he says.

The ash particles sandblast the aircraft.

All the paint will come off." It's basically like flying through sandpaper.

Ash in the engine

According to Melkert, the most dangerous is when the ash enters the engines.

The ash can then melt, causing the turbines to clog and fail.

Also, the windows of the cockpit then completely black.

Pilots can no longer see anything.

Furthermore, the shaft can destroy measuring instruments and antennas.

The device can also lose its streamlined shape and thus become more difficult to float.

In addition, ash particles are electrically charged.

They can cause a malfunction on board.

Flying through an ash cloud is therefore very dangerous.

Even if things go well, the damage could run into the millions of euros.


Much media attention for lava spewing volcano on La Palma

Problems in the past

We know from past incidents that things can go wrong.

In 1989, a KLM aircraft flew from Schiphol to Tokyo through an ash cloud over Alaska.

The dust clogged the four engines and suddenly they stopped working.

The pilots were able to restart the engines, which fortunately ended well.

Strict rules now apply and pilots are absolutely no longer allowed to fly through an ash cloud.

Sometimes that causes major problems.

For example, the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 caused worldwide chaos.

Aircraft were banned from flying throughout Europe for days.

Fortunately, the consequences of the eruption on La Palma seem a lot smaller.

Since Thursday, planes have been flying to and from the island again.

Eighty Dutch holidaymakers can return to the Netherlands in this way.

The ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010.

The ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010.

Photo: AFP

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