Day 5 Volcano Ash Disruption

Here’s the latest on flights in and out of Europe, care of the BBC.

Airspace closed:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, UK
Partial closures:
Bulgaria (Sofia and Plovdiv open)
France (southern airports open)
Italy (northern airspace expected to reopen from 0500 GMT Monday)
Norway (most airports open)
Poland (several airports, including Warsaw, open)
Sweden (northern airports open)
Flights operating:
Greece, Lithuania, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Spain.

Test flights have been conducted by British Airways and while UK airspace is closed until at least 7pm tonight, the test was completed in perfect conditions with no problems encountered from the ash cloud.  The Dutch Pilots Association (independent authority, representing pilots’ interests in the Netherlands) has said that there is no reason to worry about resuming flights.

The Met Office in the UK maintain that conditions for flight are dangerous, and NATS are using this advice as a basis for their decision to keep airspace closed.  The Civil Aviation Authority in the UK has not issued a statement on the ash situation in 2 days, and even then they said “procedures adopted in the UK comply with international aviation recommendations laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation”.  This, in spite of the fact that the ICAO has not issued a report in 3 days and airspace around Alaska and Hawaii in the US, and across Asia and South American locations is never closed as a result of volcanic activity, and still complies with ICAO standards.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called a meeting of COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room Alpha – the Committee that deals with emergency situations in the UK) to organise how to get UK citizens back in to the UK from international destinations where they are currently stranded – in some places without a visa, and thus they are effectively barricaded in rooms and airline facilities as illegal aliens.  No reports as yet as to what COBRA might do to prop up failing airline businesses.

EDIT: Here’s a nice summary from Business Week of the industry and government in-fighting.

EDIT2: The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation has a fantastic summary of the costs and responses of actual aviation groups to the European volcano.  Given Asia Pacific has eight active volcanoes it’s monitoring right now, and no flights have been cancelled as a result, I’d say they probably know a tad more than the UK Met Office about how to deal with volcanic ash.

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