Flights from some Scottish airports are flying to Stornoway this morning but there are fears that more eruptions from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano could mean even more delays for stranded passengers. The latest from the Met office suggests that although eruptions continue they are weaker than they were over the weekend. But …
Someone jumping the gun?
"But flights will be allowed over the UK, above 20, 000 feet, between 1pm and 7pm."
According to live radar plots there's been at least four Lufthansa flights from North America to Frankfurt in the last half-hour crossing northern England at 35,000ft and I've just watched the contrail of a KLM flight from Schipol to South America passing over SE London!
The first ash eruption was mostly driven by the magma being andestic in composition. It was rich in silica and sticky so it exploded rather than flowed out of the vent. This magma had probably been sitting in the volcano since 1821-23 when it last erupted, becoming richer in silica with time. The ice would have added a small amount to the ash eruption, but not much.
The eruption appears to becoming 'strombolian' - small explosions of fluid magma which don't produce much ash at all. But, as you say, if more ice enters the vent that could create 'surtseyan' ash explosions - but they won't go to such an altitude. The people of Skógar and Vík will still be sweeping their roofs though.
This doesn't mean the explosive phase of the eruption is over; during 1821-23 there were two explosive eruptions separated by quite a long period of relative quiet. And of course, everyone is looking towards Katla next door which has been quiet since 1918 - and a quick check at the Icelandic Met Office site suggests its silent today.
The airlines are acting like bankers
Do I sense that these resumed flights are all about getting money moving again rather than passengers?
You can't sue a volcano so now the airlines/airports are seeking to blame NATS and the Met Office for playing it too safe. So much for the safety of their passengers being their top priority.
I'm sure that their insurers will be crying "act of God" all the way to the bank.
I also suggest that their claims for government (i.e. taxpayers) compensation be met with a firm "no".
I have more faith in NATS than the airlines simply because NATS is similarly haemorrhaging money but is still saying, "It's not safe", while the airlines are saying, "Oh, I'm sure it'll be ok".
loss of revenue vs potential lawsuit cost
The airlines are loosing a fortune every day they are grounded.
They've probably reached the point where the 'economic risk' of a plane going down due to ash would be less than not flying their fleets of planes.
It's alway nice to know your life is in the hands of some unknown bean-counter with a calculator!
Airline <> charity
"Do I sense that these resumed flights are all about getting money moving again rather than passengers?"
What do you think? They're a business and they're being stopped from operating. And now it turns out that they're a little bit miffed that the Met/NATS are basing their decisions on computer models and the airlines themselves are having to go up to sample data and prove whether it's safe or not. I'd say they've got a good reason to be concerned.
As for corporate insurance, you'll find force majeure is often caveated strongly against.
Bailouts change everything
Concur that quarterly-result mentalities drive these corporations - at least in the U.S.. But, more likely they'll run, not to the insurance companies with claims of "Act of God", but to the government for a bailout on the taxpayers tab because, through decades of misguided deregulation and aggregation, they have become too big to fail.
A proportion, perhaps substantial, of planes that are being pressed into service -even in light ash - will have minor degradations to their engines, sensors and edges and those won't show up until down the road. Hopefully, they will get them through a maintenance cycle with eyes open for such things before those degradations become serious.
No sooner did I say it...
"...but to the government for a bailout on the taxpayers tab because, through decades of misguided deregulation and aggregation, they have become too big to fail."
Today it started. The criticism of the regulators for over-reacting and demands that governments reimburse the airlines for their losses. Why are these gambling over-extended private oligopolists always whining for someone else to assume their risk when their gambles go bad.
would you want to be on the first flight?
the very first flight up from the uk? imagine if there's one tiny problem....all scaremongering will break lose....
There have already been flights from the UK
BA sent their Top man up, apparently they described the flying conditions as perfect.
I wouldn't exactly say that the test flight proved much beyond that a short range hop is probably ok. The only way to really know if the ash will affect a plane is to keep one up, flying through it all for several hours. Of course, should the engines get jammed, someone would be at serious risk of losing a very expensive plane. Any volunteers?! One assumes that the amount of ash in any given airspace can vary, thus knowing where the densest proportion of ash happens to be would be useful too...
How many flights through not-too-dense ash is required to add significant wear to an engine? Maybe a 'plane won't fall out of the sky or be forced to an unscheduled landing but will the airlines be facing big repair bills and grounding for maintenance in a month or two?
Two planes did test to damage
The early reports were of two NATO fighters - a F-15 and F18 - likely sampling the ash cloud, that did suffer substantial engine damage and it was probably these early results that set the regulators' attitude toward caution.
The MET Office has copped a lot of flack...
... but they had to be conservative. If a plane had gone up and got into trouble, it would be the guy in the MET office who said "Go" that would be facing prosecution charges. If the plane had crashed and people died, he would most likely be facing Manslaughter charges or similar. Faced with being cautious or potentially going to prison, which do you think you would do?
But you back up your theory/predictions with actual data. Something they have failed to do.
All too convenient for me.
I'm sure that many feel that the whole situation has become blown out of proportion. I don't believe the Met office has much influence as to what happens in Germany,France, Sweden,Holland or any of the other countries that closed their airspace for the same reason as the UK did. And truly again, there's really is nothing like hindsight. Anyone prepared to pay the consequences of one downed aircraft, let alone the number of aircraft needed for the17000 flights a day that were cancelled in Europe. In the light of any further information, I can only assume that this would be RyanAir complaining, on the basis of the number of packets of crisps at 3 euro a pop lost in sales. And if the realtime model is accepted, and the American option of laying the responsibility on the airlines to make their own decisions in these cases, who would I rather trust in that situation, Ryanair or the Met office. The Met office may piss me off, Ryanair wouldn't think twice about killing me or the 350 odd passengers for the chase of a 3 euro packet of crisps.
Still, a nation of whingers, will things improve under the Tories or Liberals, possibly the quality of moaning will improve, but the quantity won't decrease.
if you are moaning...
you do the test flight - i am sure the pilots dont want to die in a flaming ball of fire cos you cannot get cheap booze in the cost del sol. If the computer says no - i am inclined to believe it.
..to set up a European Agency that has the personell and resources (measurement planes etc) to get hard data on the issue.
DLR did one flight yesterday after installing measurement devices for the last four days.
This is clearly a task that should be shared amongst European nations. One or two proper test aircraft and the corresponding personell would do the trick.
For those complaining that the Met Office have relied solely on modelling I point you to http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2010/volcano.html which states 'Met Office and NERC aircraft have observed volcanic ash in UK airspace at varying heights.' and 'Balloon observations have shown a 600 m deep ash cloud at an altitude of 4 km across parts of the UK.'
Disclaimer, I work for the Met Office and we are not officially allowed to call "liar" on the likes of the Torygraph et al hence A/C
Hard Data from DLR Probe Flight Over Germany
German Transport/Travel Ministry Report (results from DLR flight with the "Falcon" test plane):
Apparently the particle concentration is approximately the same as from Sahara-Dust over Europe. Also, the ash is not homogenously distributed.
Now Rolls-Royce, Snecma and MTU (and also P&W and GE) should let their engines eat some significant amount of ash, so that a maximum acceptable level of ash can be established.
Finnish Airforce Photographs
There are some interesting photos of the volcanic dust in the engines of a Finnish Airforce jet which can be viewed at http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2010/04/16/340727/pictures-finnish-f-18-engine-check-reveals-effects-of-volcanic.html.
All I can say is that I am glad I was not flying on that aircraft.
I would sooner take the word of the Met Office and NATs rather than that of BA as to whether the conditions are safe to fly in. At the end of the day I suppose it is the aircraft's captain who has the final say on whether it is safe to fly and I only hope that the decision is not marred by commercial considerations.
Give us its name!
Ok, how do you pronounce "Eyjafjallajökull"?