24-May-2011 1:15 PM

Icelandic ash cloud looms over Europe

Iceland’s Grímsvötn volcanco continues to threaten European airspace, with predictive charts from the UK Met Office’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre showing that ash from the volcano stretching south over most of Scotland as of early Tuesday 24-May-2011, mainly at lower altitudes (Bloomberg, 24-May-2011). NATS warned (23-May-2011) services are likely to be affected across northern Britain on Tuesday. CAA spokesman Jonathan Nicholson said authorities this time would give airlines information about the location and density of ash clouds and any airline that wants to operate would have to present a safety report to aviation authorities in order to be allowed. Mr Nicholson said most British airlines had permission to fly through medium-density ash clouds, but none had asked for permission to fly through high-density clouds, classified as having more than 4000 micrograms of ash per cubic metre. “The ash plume has been coming down a bit but the fact that the cloud is getting a little lower doesn’t indicate that the eruption is slowing,” said Elin Jonasdottir, meteorologist at Iceland’s Met Office. “Our measurements show that the eruption has been rather stable since yesterday.” The height of the ash cloud from the eruption fell to 10km from 20km on May 21, according to Iceland’s Met Office.

Responses include:

  • EUROCONTROL: The pan-European air navigation services provider announced (23-May-2011) that “there has been no significant impact on flights today [23-May-2011] as a result of the eruption of the Grimsvötn volcano in Iceland. EUROCONTROL warned that “there is a strong possibility that parts of the ash cloud may impact parts of Scotland and Ireland in the coming 24 hours. Due to unstable meteorological conditions, it is not possible to identify with certainty the movements of the ash cloud beyond that time frame;
  • EUROCONTROL: The airspace operator also announced (23-May-2011) the European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell (EACCC) has been activated and has held its first meeting. Participants, who included EU states, the European Commission, EUROCONTROL, EASA, air navigation service providers, airlines, and airport associations, shared information on the situation in European airspace as well as on its possible evolution;
  • Iceland: Keflavik International Airport announced (23-May-2011) it expected to reopen at 18:00 GMT Monday after being closed for almost 36 hours. Hjordis Gudmundsdottir, spokeswoman for the airport operator Isavia, said the first flight to take off would be an Icelandair flight to London Heathrow. "The outlook is good for Keflavik and other Icelandic airports in the coming 24 hours," said Mr Gudmundsdottir. "We don't have a forecast for after that so we wait and see."
  • Loganair: Glasgow-based regional airline Loganair has become the first carrier to cancel services, with the cancellation of 36 services on Tuesday.
  • Cardiff Airport: The airport announced (23-May-2011) that some flights will be affected by volcanic ash on Tuesday, 24 May. Eastern Airways has cancelled services to Aberdeen;
  • Irish Aviation Authority: The IAA is (23-May-2011) not expected any disruption to services in Irish airspace or at Irish airports on Tuesday 24-May-2011, but warned that schedules will be affected by ash contamination in airspace at other airports in the region;
  • Belfast International: The airport warned (23-May-2011) that airlines may take the decision not to operate should ash contamination reach the UK and Ireland. easyJet has cancelled all services between Belfast International and both Glasgow and Edinburgh between 05:00 and 09:00 on Tuesday 24-May. Jet2.com has cancelled its Leeds Bradford service;
  • Avinor: The Norwegian airport and airspace operator announced (23-May-2011) it does not expect ash to reach Norway until Tuesday afternoon. Air traffic between Norway and Svalbard has been stopped following the introduction of a temporary hazard area due to ash. Other air traffic will operate as usual on Tuesday. Air traffic between Norway and Iceland has resumed as of 20.00 Monday evening;
  • Air Greenland: The Greenlandic national carrier cancelled a service from Copenhagen to Greenland and suspended ticket sales to at least 27-May the company said. Danish authorities, which administer Greenland airspace, have restricted flights in the eastern part of the island;
  • KLM: The Dutch airline cancelled 16 flights between Amsterdam and Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle on 23-May (Reuters, 23-May-2011);
  • British Airways: BA announced the temporary suspension of services between London and Scotland. The carrier said all other services are unaffected;
  • Manchester Airport: The airport stated that reports suggest the ash cloud might drop into northern parts of Scotland on Tuesday “but there is unlikely to be a wholesale grounding of flights like last year” (Manchester Evening News, 23-May-2011).

[more – NATS] [more - EUROCONTROL] [more – EUROCONTROL (EACCC)] [moreEuropean Union] [more – Keflavik International Airport] [moreCardiff Airport] [more – Irish Aviation Authority] [more – Irish Aviation Authority(2)] [more – Belfast International] [more – Avinor]

European Union: "Volcanos don't obey any rules and this is a situation that is evolving by the hour. What is clear however is that, one year on, lessons have been learnt and we are in a much better position to manage the challenge of ash affecting Europe. As the situation evolves, this may still prove to be a very challenging week for passengers and the aviation sector, but there are new tools in place that allow for a more precise risk assessment to avoid, in so far as possible, closure of European airspace whilst ensuring safety". Siim Kallas, VP Transport. Source: European Commission, 23-May-2011.

UK Civil Aviation Authority: "Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of people both onboard aircraft and on the ground. We can't rule out disruption, but the new arrangements that have been put in place since last year's ash cloud mean the aviation sector is better prepared and will help to reduce any disruption in the event that volcanic ash affects UK airspace." Andrew Haines, CEO. Source: NZ Herald, 23-May-2011.

International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations: "It remains out view that when there is an unknown then it is always better to err on the side of caution.” Gideon Ewers, spokesman. Source: NZ Herald, 23-May-2011.

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