Ash cloud spells delays for thousands

by Alister POOLE on May 24, 2011

Thousands of passengers are face UK flight cancellations due to drifting ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

The airports most likely to be affected include Carlisle, Newcastle, Durham Tees Valley, Glasgow and Londonderry, according to air traffic services firm Nats. European air traffic controllers say that at least 252 flights have been cancelled thus far.

However Ryanair has revealed that it completed an important test flight over Scotland before challenging a ruling that some flights should be completely grounded. The Irish airline said that its flight at 40,000ft, which lastd at least 90 minutes, showed that no visible volcanic ash clouds could be seen nor was there any evidence of ash on any wings or engines belonging to its plane.

A decision on whether or not permission is granted to fly rests with the national aviation authorities of each airline. Ryanair, which continues to check in passengers, has submitted safety cases to IAA, the Irish Aviation Authority, to fly from Scotland throughout Tuesday afternoon. Any decision isn’t expected to be made for a few hours yet although there is a Ryanair flight scheduled to take off from Edinburgh at around 1500 BST.

Ryanair says that the “red zone” over Scotland’s airspace,  where ash was classified “high-density”, has been invented by the London Met Office and the CAA or Civil Aviation Authority. Michael O’Leary, the carrier’s chief executive told how he had written confirmation that even the red zones are safe to fly in.

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