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Ash clouds threaten air traffic

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Ash clouds threaten air traffic

Old 21st Apr 2010, 07:22
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So as the ash cloud becomes even more diffuse and withdraws from UK airspace (as evidenced by the latest VAAC charts), King CAAnute announces the salvation of British aviation?

Has anyone got a link to this revised airspace guidance yet as we can't rewrite our operational procedures against the specification of a press release.
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 07:46
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It would appear that the issue here was not about how much ash there was in the amosphere but where it was. The VAAC model was computer generated and was looking more rediculous by the day as it expanded mathematically over to Newfoundland and into Russia. This was the problem as the satellite imaging used by the FAA showed the ash in a completely different area. Europe started using the satellite imaging as soon as they realised the conflict but because the VAAC couldn't back down we had the farce of Adonis and his advisors insisting on using the VAAC model when there was clearly a vast confliction in the data being provided. A final compromise was thrashed out last night after enormous pressure from the airlines that resulted in a extended red line being drawn round the satellite images.
Standby for massive compensation claims and heads rolling, a typical UK over reaction based on flawed data.
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 07:59
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German Airspace Restrictions

Does anybody know the current state of play inside German airspace?

Is it still VFR below fl100 only?
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 07:59
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That'll be a model from the Met Office, which also produces the models used to predict Global Warming then?

The airlines don't come out of this smelling of roses. They're the ones who have dragged their feet for years to prevent a safe ash level being set...

Guardian: Why airlines resisted setting safe dust level for flights – until now
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:04
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Interesting that it was NATS that effectively closed the airspace on thursday by issuing instructions to NATS controllers not to accept IFR flights in controlled airspace (no such instructions to non NATS units until friday), yet it is now the CAA who are stepping forward as the regulator to re-open airspace.
I personally spoke to a CAA inspector on friday who said , and i quote ' we have not issued any mandatory instructions but we are recommending that NATS guidelines are followed' .

When did the CAA step in?

Perhaps we can ask Harriet Harman?
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:09
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a) It was not a UK-only reaction; decisions were made across Europe as well

b) Met Office modelling shows the cloud becoming more diffuse as time progresses - hence why we now find airspace opening in conjunction with changed risk assessments on engine tolerances. I still do not see how that possibly indicts the decisions of the last 6 days as bad. I don't see this as being ridiculous at all. Met Office: Icelandic volcano - Ash concentration charts

c) North Atlantic weather patterns have not dissapated the cloud, unlike eruptions from Redoubt, Alaska or other volcanoes have

d) Empirical observations have vindicated the modelling: see where their own heli was grounded on the way to make the observations Met Office: New observations of volcanic dust

e) Further empirical observations here: Met Office: Icelandic volcano imagery

f) I don't see any conflict between the satellite images (which the Met Office has also published throughout) and the forecast maps; empirical evidence has supported the presence of thinner volcanic ash in areas not shown on the satellite map, the same thin ash layers which caused Finnish F18 engine damage

Edit: g) Read ORAC's article link

I am happy for the CAA and NATS to make a professional judgement that flight is safe in the environment today; I don't see that process as having disproved any of the past 6 days' decisions whatsoever. That process was necessary if insufficient tolerance data was available, and the ash cloud was more concentrated until today.

On the contrary, the attitude of many here seems to be no different from the psychological state of bull market participants in the stock market who match their ideas to facts as they perceive them, rather than recognising changed environments.

I still can't see why people see a conspiracy, particularly on the side of conservatism (when it is usually levelled at bullish companies who are alleged to compromise flight safety...)

"Belief in conspiracy theories can be comforting. If everything that goes wrong is the fault of a secret cabal, that relieves you of the tedious necessity of trying to understand how a complex world really works. And you can feel smug that you are smart enough to “see through” the official version of events."

Safe flying
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:12
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Perhaps we can ask Harriet Harman
No, don't. I can't bear the sound of her voice. Nothing gives me greater solace than the thought of her sitting in the benefit office on May 7th.

I would have been happy to fly from day 1. I have 25 years of experience of flying in all kinds of crap. The pilots are the ones who decides when and where it's safe to fly aeroplanes, not faceless bureaucrats.
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:13
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it´s changing all the time...

Check here for the latest:


It´s still VFR below FL200 in most places.
Did CVFR into FRA yesterday.
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:18
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I would have been happy to fly from day 1. I have 25 years of experience of flying in all kinds of crap. The pilota are the ones who decides when and where it's safe to fly aeroplanes, not faceless bureaucrats.
Which airline do you fly for again? I'll make a note to avoid paxing on it. I assume you also ignore the faceless bureaucrats who forecast storm cells as well, right?

Day 1 in Finnish airspace, 2,000km from the volcano? I'll leave you to it.

The airlines don't come out of this smelling of roses. They're the ones who have dragged their feet for years to prevent a safe ash level being set...

Guardian: Why airlines resisted setting safe dust level for flights – until now
Good point, useful article with some good journalism (despite the publication!)
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:18
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"Thomas Cook TCX952P registration G-JMCF (Boeing 757-28A) just made a u-turn to Manchester, it was out over the North Sea off Nofolk/Suffolk, it reported to London and Manchester Control it had an engine bleed problem after an 'intense smell of volcanic ash in the cabin during the climb between FL160 and FL200."
I have a feeling some airlines are just waiting to be sued in the American courts over knowingly flying into ash if a subsequent accident happens due to engine failure/rollback and ash, no matter how little, is found in the engines.....

Last edited by Massey1Bravo; 21st Apr 2010 at 08:20. Reason: typo
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:23
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Operations in contradiction to ops manual

As Captain, I am legally responsible for the safe preparation and execution of any flight I undertake.

As we are still in a volcanic ash cloud, ( it has not gone away) is it unreasonable for me to see the information that has led to the resumption of flight, especially as the ops manual states avoid flight into volcanic ash. If I have an incident who is to blame?

I am happy to fly but would like a little more data to hang my hat on
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:25
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Would it be worth it.. It's nearly 9am and Heathrow is virtually dead and the arrivals board says "cancelled" for about 90% of flights.
There is no point ruining the entire fleet on test flights is there?

Ryanair are not going to take part in the experiment apparently flights are cancelled until Thursday (when the wind is expected to blow the last of the cloud away.

Last edited by peter we; 21st Apr 2010 at 08:37.
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:26
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I am happy to fly but would like a little more data to hang my hat on
Agreed - much as I am defending NATS/Met Office in this, their PR has been appallingly bad in eloquently communicating what data they have been using, which has spread the fans of the great conspiracy theory.
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:28
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not faceless bureaucrats.
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Well said! Maybe HH can spearhead yet another state funded quango to write a report on the internal structure of volcanos. Spearhead is the appropriate word right down its opening.

Poor old aviation has been loaded with such huge costs from a mass of faceless burocrats from every direction that it is fast becoming an awful business to be in.

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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:34
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Maybe the government should fund this and the huge costs to the aviation industry from the huge revenue it gets from its so called "Carbon Taxes" to research the biggest Carbon producer into the atmosphere of all?

I entirely agree. The government should use some of the VAT and fuel taxes which airlines pay to help make up for all the losses incurred. Oh, wait....
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:36
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When can we expect to see "approved for flight in volcanic ash concentrations of xxx/m3 or less" in our AFMs?
I like brooksjg's suggestion as an immediate check on ash encounter (especially inadvertent). Should be possible to differentiate between bugs and rocks by simple visual. Bad rocks and benign rocks might need microscopic exam.
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:37
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All sorts of things, probably including insects, could potentially cause False Positives.
Depending on the previous filter replacement cycle (ie. when clogged with non-ash material and therefore doing their job), you could either set a maximum for ALL air contamination permitted on one flight and quarantine the aircraft whenever it was exceeded, or find that for filters tested after one flight only, the level of contamination from non-ash causes will always be insignificant. Makes no impact on the effectiveness of the filter testing as a first-line defence against ash in the turbine, I don't think.

Might be a good idea to monitor ALL the different crud passing through the turbines, anyway!

On further reflection, my suggestion seems so obvious (and already widely done in other contexts) that it's hard to understand why it's not been done with volcanic ash or other intake air contaminants since forever! Next thing, some engineer from BA Cardiff will pop up and say they've actually been doing it all the time (or at least since the WW PR flight!
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:40
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As someone rostered to operate 4 sectors this afternoon, I've been trying to gather as much updated info as I can. Having just been on to the CAA website, I'm interested in the CAA requirements that airlines are to perform "an intensive maintenance ash damage inspection before and after each flight". I expect to have company guidance on this later today, but it isn't immediately clear to me which airspace this applies to, given that there still appears to be areas with low concentration of ash over some parts of the UK today and that the areas affected are constantly changing. Glad to be back flying, but haven't seen much discussion of this inspection requirement.
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:41
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very surprised to hear (bbc1 news) that it was in discussions with manufactures of the engines that the new policy was reached. I would be very amazed if any of the manufactures have put the signitures on this new policy. It would take months of validation work to come up with a level that was safe- not 5 days- I have worked in validation of experiments (all be it not in aviation) for 20 years- this is just not possible. I would love someone during a tv interview to press for the new ppm 'safe levels'. I have no idea if the skys are safe to return to, I have no idea if they were ever unsafe- but I DO KNOW THAT a new policy based on a diff safe limit found by experimentation cannot be set in 5 days.
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 08:41
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I've read most of this thread, and have previously decided just to hold my tongue for fear of getting flamed, or moderated.

It seemed to me all along that the response to this (or indeed) any volcano's eruption should have followed the following, fairly simple, train of thought:

1) Does flight through the affected airspace pose an unacceptable risk of damage sufficient to cause an imminent loss of life? In this context, "imminent" means that the loss is likely to occur during either the current flight or any subsequent flight(s) prior to it being possible to adequately inspect and repair said aircraft. In this case there is a clear case for airspace being closed to traffic.

2) If (1) doesn't apply, then the event is not an immediate safety of flight issue and airspace should not be closed. Decisions then become commercial. It must be an operator's prerogative whether or not it is to its benefit to ground its aircraft and avoid increased repair costs or to fly and accept that there will be increased wear and tear. That is not to say that there is no place for the regulator in that process. It is entirely proper, and indeed should be expected, that the regulator impose a more stringent inspection regime on aircraft that are known to have been exposed to unusual atmospheric contaminants.

We now seem to have arrived at a modus operandi that reflects that train of thought. Unfortunately, getting there has been a painful process which has cast no credit on government, the regulators, or indeed the aviation industry:

a) Government, because it sat back for too long allowing the aviation authorities to take decisions with major impacts outside their field of competence. Like it or not, a decision to impose a prolonged closure of airspace over an entire continent should not be taken purely in an aviation context, without regard to other effects. In the modern interconnected world, such a closure has financial, social and economic consequences far beyond that restricted regime. Most directly, as any closure extends, we should expect that people will die in accidents using alternative transport or for lack of medication or treatment, but there will be bankruptcies, economic disruption and so on. It is explicitly the role of government to balance conflicting interests in such cases.

b) The regulators, because their preparations for such events had almost certainly not been adequately stress tested. I will be amazed, and rather disturbed, if it subsequently emerges that the ICAO and others had realised that the procedures they put in place could lead to the shutting down of air traffic over one of the world's most economically active regions for nearly a week. Especially as a result of the eruption of a volcano smaller than the one they used as an example in their policy document! The Met Office hardly emerges with any credit from this process either. How can the VAAC be satisfied that it has discharged its role adequately when it has issued charts showing the “boundaries” of contaminated regions accompanied by the clearly contradictory statement that concentrations within those regions were unknown? And why had it not established any methodology for actually checking its predictions against measured data? Or against the predictions of other forecasters?

c) The aviation industry, because there seems to have been so little prior investigation of the physical effects of this phenomenon. How can airframe and engine manufacturers have issued documents stating that should be no flight through ash-contaminated airspace with a straight face? Surely that was a prohibition honoured more in the breach than the observance, since a zero concentration of ash is clearly never possible, mathematically or practically, in the atmosphere of a planet whose geology is driven by plate tectonics.

Despite newspaper terminology, this has not been a "shambles" or "chaos". And I am very glad that I haven't been caught up in it personally. But it has been woeful to watch. We weren't struck by an asteroid, folks! A routine, well-understood, geological event occurred in one of the richest, most developed, most sophisticated and technically capable parts of the world, and the various authorities' best response was, in essence: "well, we don't know what the actual effects are!"

And this in a field where the maxim: "prior preparation prevents p**s poor performance" is supposed to rule. Spare us....
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