Monday, April 19, 2010

More on crashing in ash

My son, David, the Formula 1 engineer is stuck in China following the Grand Prix in Shanghai. Theoretically, he won't be home until May 2nd. Meantime, as I predicted yesterday, questions are being asked about the over reaction of the aviation authorities. From today's Telegraph:

Giovanni Bisignani, director-general, the International Air Transport Association, the airlines' trade body was scathing about the European response to the ash cloud.

"This is a European embarrassment and it's a European mess,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. It took five days to organise a conference call with the ministers of transport. Europeans are still using a system that's based on a theoretical model, instead of taking a decision based on facts and risk assessment. This decision (to close airspace) has to be based on facts and supported by risk assessment. We need to replace this blanket approach with a practical approach."

European air control authorities have admitted that they have interpreted international guidelines “more rigorously” than US.

“I do not think that Europe needs to be stricter than a country such as America, where you have a lot of volcanoes erupting. Those people have a lot of experience and do not close the whole airspace,” Camiel Eurlings, the Dutch transport minister, admitted. If remain on the present source, then I predict we remain in this misery for a very long time. That will not help travellers or the air sector and it is probably not necessary.”

On Sunday Willie Walsh, BA’s chief executive, joined four crew in a test flight from London to Cardiff. The flight, which took the aircraft out over the Atlantic Ocean, lasted two hours and 46 minutes with flying conditions described as “perfect”. Engineers at the airline are studying the effects of the flight on engines before concluding whether it is safe to fly or not. A BA spokesman said: “We would not be doing this if we did not think it was safe and didn’t have the necessary permission. We would not do anything which would jeopardise our crew or aircraft.”

Lufthansa also flew 10 aircraft from Munich to Frankfurt on Saturday with the blessing of the safety authorities. A spokesman said: “We found no damage to the engines, fuselage or cockpit windows. This is why we are urging the aviation authorities to run more test flights rather than relying on computer models.”

Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, the Secretary General of the Association of European Airlines, said: “Verification flights undertaken by several of our airlines have revealed no irregularities at all; this confirms our requirement that other options should be deployed to determine genuine risk”.

For my son, this will all be a bit of an adventure, but we shouldn't be blind to the difficulties that the flight ban is causing. This from today's Times:

A British toddler was in a critical condition last night after bone marrow needed for a transplant was held back in Canada. She was one of 16 patients said to be in “critical need” because of the lack of bone marrow supplies.

The International Civil Aviation Authority said that the disruption was worse than that caused by the shutdown of air travel after 9/11. Airlines are reported to be losing at least $200 million (£130 million) a day.

Added later:

My son has a friend at BA who sold him his chocolate Labrador. She has managed to get him on a flight to Los Angeles and thence to London. He should be home at the weekend.


Anonymous said...

And if the planes had flown and one crashed, who would pay for the inevitable lawsuits? KLM had an all-engine flame out caused by ash some time ago and only due to the pilot's skill were they restarted. Who wants to assume your pilot is so skilled?

Anonymous said...

I heard someone say on the news yesterday "It is better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground"

john liston

Anonymous said...

The nanny state is alive and well. Perhaps Russia could declare war and bomb the you-know-what out of England during an eruption.

The British authorities couldn't let their aircraft fly when there is the remote possibility that a volcano could scruff up the plane a bit.

This is sheer silliness. How many times in the past have volcanoes erupted, to zero affect on aircraft?

I distinctly remember a flight back to the US from Norway via Heathrow when the pilot pointed out a volcanic eruption on Iceland. We flew right over the plume, which was spectacular to see.

As far as the plane that was fouled by volcanic ash, that was at night, there were no reports of the cloud which could have been avoided easily.

So we have this one report. Do we ground flights everywhere in the world because a volcano might erupt in Antarctica (and yes, there is at least one volcano in Antarctica, Mt. Erebus I believe).

Life itself is a gamble, friends. We cannot protect ourselves from all risk, though liberals are attempting to do that.