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South American airline forges new image after abandoning three planes amid Chilean-Argentine volcanic ash cloud
Maverick Viñales dodges disaster after bailing out at 228 kph
The South American airline Maverick has escaped disaster after abandoning three planes when they broke down amid the ash cloud caused by an erupting Chilean volcano.
One of the planes had an altitude restriction set by Chilean airspace restrictions until December.
The Argentine-owned company also owed money to creditors and an employee had been arrested in a theft scandal.
Maverick president Mario Andujar said he was confident that flights would resume on Tuesday.
The Oscar-winning actress Gabriela Mistral is the company’s biggest investor, Forbes estimates, and she celebrated with a glass of wine after learning that the aircraft owners were negotiating a deal with Maverick and the air traffic controllers.
“I think we’re on our way back,” Mistral told the La Tercera newspaper.
The Morro Viva volcano that sits in the Malvinas Argentinas, or Argentine-Venezuela, archipelago has been erupting since Monday. Its second and third eruptions hit last weekend, spewing ash into the air.
The ash warning comes as spring is in full swing, and could affect flights that fly into Brazilian airspace, south of the volcano’s vent. Thousands of flights had been cancelled in Chile and Argentina.
The ash grounded almost all domestic and international flights in Chile and nearly all international flights in Argentina.
Airlines could try to resume flight operations as ash particles settle to the ground and as wind conditions improve.
“For the future, I am very concerned about it, especially now that it’s spring. I really hope that this would be resolved and that we wouldn’t have this problem again,” said the airline client Jacson Carbó, who has been flying the airline since the 1980s.
The Horizon Air turboprop plane in question, which originated in New York, arrived in Chile via Buenos Aires on Thursday en route to Medellín, Colombia. Its flight plan forced the Chilean authorities to modify the airline’s entire route system.
After making one stopover in Chile, the flight continued through Colombia and Costa Rica and then down into Panama and Argentina.
About a dozen additional flights destined for the US, according to the company, had to be cancelled in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
On Saturday, Andujar announced that the airline owed its creditors $25m and that DirecTV and Infelink were in debt to Maverick more than $70m.
Maverick owns four planes: two ATR72-600 aircraft made by ATR, the Airbus subsidiary; a Hawker Beechcraft 200, which it leases; and an aircraft it purchased outright.
“We made all the financial deposits and are expecting to pay our creditors very soon,” Andujar said.
Maverick told the Associated Press that it had asked authorities if it could cancel flights and limit airspace.
“I’ve decided to do both: immediately in specific conditions and indefinitely in total” said Andujar.
Brazilian air traffic control authority ANAC said the airspace around the volcano had been closed indefinitely. Argentina’s aviation authority allowed only “minimal” flights for 72 hours.
“However, the airspace is being monitored as it has been for the past few days to make sure that it is safe,” said Gustavo Vargas, a spokesman for Argentina’s air traffic control.