Photo: Shaesta Waiz

Photo: Hiroshi Higashiyama

Photo: Shaesta Waiz


After crossing the snow-capped peaks of Russia, Captain Irving and the Flying Classroom landed safely at New Chitose International Airport in Japan on Monday morning. As they taxied down the runway, the sun rose and a series of F-15 fighter jets from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force took off to the sound of the Japanese military theme song. Nearby, a red- and gold-striped 747 with the red sun insignia on its tail and wings was parked at the ready—Japanese Air Force One.

Thank you to Saya and Kumi and the rest of the Universal Weather & Aviation team in Sapporo, who were graciously accommodating to our crew in preparation for takeoff. At noon local time (11 p.m. EST), the Flying Classroom departed for Nagoya, a city about 60 miles north of Mount Ontake.

To get the latest on the volcano's ash plume, I spoke with Sean, a meteorologist at Universal Weather & Aviation. He assured me that “there’s certainly nothing at cruise altitude that is going to be affecting any airspace in the Japan area.” At this point, he said ash from Saturday’s eruption has mostly fallen to the ground.

Courtesy of Universal Weather and Aviation

Computer models help meteorologists estimate where ash will concentrate much in the same way that they help them forecast where a hurricane might make landfall. As you can see in this model from Monday’s ash advisory report, any ash that has been lifted back into the air by surface winds (the black polygons) is below 10,000 feet (SFC/FL100) and blowing out to sea.

Of course, my next question was: what about my flight? I will be leaving the U.S. tomorrow to join the team in Shanghai.

“They’ve got you approaching from well west of the Koreas,” said Sean. “Looks like light rain showers on Tuesday but then sunny to partly cloudy with highs in the mid to upper 70s.” And no chance of ash.

NEXT STOP: Nagoya, Japan