VOLCANIC HAZE SUSPENDS SAIPAN FLIGHTS

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By Jude O. Marfil

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Aug. 3) – Hundreds of passengers were stranded at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport following the temporary suspension of flights due to Anatahan’s volcanic haze.

Passengers had to wait for at least three hours before they were allowed to get on board the aircraft.

Among the flights affected were Continental Micronesia flight CO910 bound for Guam which was supposed to depart from Saipan at 4:50 a.m.

"Our CO910 flight using a 150-seat Boeing 737 was temporarily suspended. We could not operate this morning because we had to wait until the sky was clear," said Walter P. Dias, Continental’s staff vice president for sales and marketing.

Cape Air’s connecting flight to Guam was also delayed.

Japan Airlines’ flight 940 also failed to take off at 6 a.m. yesterday. "At least 270 passengers were stranded," said the airline’s regional manager Shinichi Yoshida.

This was the second time airline flights were adversely affected due to poor visibility resulting from Anatahan’s volcanic ash. The first time was on April 5 this year when Anatahan erupted.

"The aircraft is traveling at a great speed. The ashfall is like sandpaper. It’ll sand the paint off the aircraft and can scratch the windshield, which obstructs vision and more importantly can damage the engine which is a safety factor," said Ivan Quichocho, Continental Airlines’ manager for Saipan, in an earlier interview.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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