Modification of Ash Rules Pleases Airlines

Posted on 29. Nov, 2011 by in News

The Gatwick Airport welcomes a new set of rules relating to air travels in the event of volcanic ashes. Before, aircrafts would have to cancel or postpone flights if the volume of volcanic ash is already at 0.002 grams per cubic meter. Recently, this volume has been doubled, equivalent to that of ‘two grains of sand in a bathtub.’ The safe maximum volume has been changed from 0.002 to 0.004 grams per cubic metre. This may be small figures but it can be enough to prevent a 94% of all ash-related delays.

The modification was because of the encouragements from the airline bosses who have always been verbal in criticizing the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA). They were bothered with its trigger-happy attitude that lead to the closure of several airspaces since the eruption of Eyjafjoll began in mid-April. The issue was further compounded last week when the CAA made orders of closing the UK airspace because of an ash cloud when in fact it wasn’t really there.

Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways, referred to the air travel bans as a ‘gross overreaction to a very minor risk’. This was supplemented by the words of Richard Branson saying that the number of flight cancellations had got ‘beyond a joke”. The founder of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, was concerned of CAA’s ‘outdated, inappropriate, and imaginary’ ash tracking models.

Flybe, a Leeds-based airline, was the first to follow the CAA’s new policies. They required all aeroplanes to be equipped with ash-tolerant engines, or at least, seek permission to travel from their engine manufacturer. The heads of the said carrier that if this rule was made earlier, they could have had only 21 out of the 380 cancelled flights last month.

According to the statement of Iceland’s Met Office, the Eyjafjoll was now venting steam rather than ash. This could be good news for aviation bosses but the experts say that they should still be careful as other volcanoes close to Eyjafjoll could be stirring.

There have been predictions made of the activities of the surrounding volcanoes. The famous volcanologist at the Edinburgh University, Thor Thordarson, anticipates up to four Icelandic volcanoes could erupt within the next few years. These volcanoes are Grimsvotn, who had an eruption in 1996 causing the destruction of Iceland’s main ring road, Hekla and Askja volcanoes as well as Katla which is the larger neighbour of Eyjafjoll.


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