Things With Wings

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  • Ash Returns
    Posted by Robert Wall 7:49 AM on May 05, 2010

    Any questions of whether the volcanic ash-related closure of European air space in April was a once-in-a-lifetime experience has now clearly been dispelled, with parts of Irish and U.K. air space having to shut down on May 4 and May 5 because of drifts in the volcanic ash cloud.
    There was much anger in the wake of the April shut down that regulators were overly cautious. In most cases, though, regulators -- unlike many airlines -- were just waiting to find out what levels of ash density were acceptable. Once that information was in hand, air space opened up. But as today and yesterday showed, that doesn't mean air space closures are a thing of the past.
    Today, for instance, the U.K. CAA has closed airspace at Glasgow all day, and Belfast will be hit in the afternoon. Interesting is how much more precise regulators now are about closures. Belfast is a case in point. While Derry, in Northern Ireland, will be closed from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. (local time), Belfast is only affected from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m., at least for now.
    If there are more of these events in the coming months, it will be interesting to watch how airlines respond and whether they will put more pressure on regulators to allow them to fly in levels of ash density currently not deemed acceptable. It will be another litmus test for airlines whether they really mean it when they preach "safety first."

    Tags: tw99, ash

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