Mount Redoubt approaching climax

Things in south-central Alaska just got a bit more interesting (and south-central Alaska was already a pretty tough neighborhood). Mount Redoubt has seen a dramatic uptick in seismic activity over the last several days and seismologists fear that an eruption may be imminent.

Located about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, Mount Redoubt hasn’t had a release in over 20 years, so you can bet that it’s frustrated. Peter Cervelli, a research geophysicist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory said, “we expect based on the past behavior of this volcano that this activity is going to culminate in an eruption.” And what a release it will be!

Cervelli went on to add that while an eruption would pose little threat to residents of Anchorage, it certainly has the potential to disrupt air traffic. During the last eruption, ash plumes hindered air traffic and caused one jet engine to fail. Ash plumes are the the new bird strikes!

The observatory has set up two webcams to monitor the situation and get footage of an eruption, which should be one hell of a money shot.

[Via CNN]

Government Accountability Office Says Runway Accidents Still a Big Risk

Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Bureau scolded the FAA for not doing more to decrease the chances of runway collisions. According to the NTSB, runway accidents are the greatest danger facing air travelers. Near misses are almost commonplace. Just last week in Pennsylvania, a United Express jet and a 4-seat Cessna barely missed each other because of an error by an air traffic controller trainee.

This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) chimed in on the subject of runway dangers, reporting that though the number of flights dropped over the past year, the number of runway incidents (actual accidents or near misses) was slightly higher during the first three quarters of 2008 than it was in 2007. Nonetheless, a top GAO aviation expert told a House committee that it appeared that the FAA was increasingly intent on making runways safer.
With all the chatter about airport security measures, security checkpoints and the use of cell phones on planes, the chaotic runways of airports almost go unnoticed. Though, if you crunched the numbers, the chances of getting hit by another plane while taxiing down a runway are much, much higher than the chances of a plane being hijacked.

Everything you ever wanted to know about weather delays

Doesn’t it seem like whenever a drop of rain falls on the New York City tarmac that all flight delays skyrocket? Well, it’s not your imagination. We now have numbers to prove it!

WeatherBill just came out with their seasonal report on air traffic congestion related to weather, tallying up all of the airlines from a DOT list and comparing them against airports, weather and subsequent delays. They found some pretty interesting data, noting that weather delays are worst handled in New York City and best handled in San Jose and Phoenix. Interestingly, they also found that Jetblue and Continental, two airlines with hubs in the City seem to handle weather delays best among carriers, perhaps because they’re so experienced with inclement weather.

All of these data are pretty interesting, but do we really need a third party to tell us that delays go up as a function of bad weather? Most people would think that this was kind of obvious.

But Weatherbill isn’t marketing the obvious numbers to buyers. Their niche is in the formulas predicting how delayed flights will be as a function of the weather. If airlines know this well, they can manage loads better and create fewer delays — saving them money and the passenger time. Everyone wins, right?
Got some time to read 58 pages of charts and data? Check out the full report here, or check out the lazyman’s version here.