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Ash clouds threaten air traffic

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Ash clouds threaten air traffic

Old 18th Apr 2010, 20:20
  #1261 (permalink)  
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Extended till 1900 Mon, extended till 1300 Tue etc etc etc , I am beginning to understand MOL's decision . . . "Sod it , canx everything North of the Pyrenees till 1300 Wed", unfortunately, wouldn't be too surprised if that is how it pans out anyway.

Must refrain from using phrases such as "nanny state"/ covering asses/elf n' safety/ jobsworth No nO NO, but . . . aren't you beginning to wonder ? just HOW dangerous is it really up there Carruthers ?

Well, I wouldn't really wish to volunteer to go up and try it (after you Mr Walsh ) but it amazes me that the scientific wherewithall doesn't exist to actually get up there and collect more samples. Is this not something that could/should have been done ASAP on a vast scale with weather balloons or something ? after all there has been nobody up there to bump into them for several days already.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 20:28
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MPN11 – I very much appreciate your frustration at the ‘spotters info’ that has crept into this thread. I was sat upon from a great height on Friday, although I am not a spotter. However, there is a real issue in identifying what is actually flying, at least in the short term. Many on this forum wish good solid technical information that when they take-off it is a safe environment in which to conduct a flight. They are to be applauded.

From the information being provided by the cross posting from SBS forums etc.. some crews are clearly flying. Three Condors 767 have recently coasted out at Brest on trans-atlantics. AF will be launching long hauls tomorrow from Toulouse and Pau. KL is starting some schedules. SK on trans-atlantics etc., as well as the test flights.

Are these crews being rostered, invited, volunteering, persuaded or pressurised (God forbid)? What technical information is persuading these crews that it is safe to fly, even if it is just ascending /descending through the ash layer?

Acceptable manageable calculated risk - maybe. However, I would be very interested to hear the safety argument for the ‘go’ decision from the crews concerned.

I look forward to buying you a drink in the WW bar.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 20:41
  #1263 (permalink)  
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I find it interesting that several airlines seem to have found crew to fly these test flights and repositioning flights, but the courier companies (UPS etc) still seem grounded. Even KLM are apparently resuming cargo-only flights. What would be the reason that UPS have not found someone to fly their planes?

Sorry if that is a daft question, just wondered as there does seem to be a fair amount of activity in N.Europe from some select carriers.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 20:43
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As always, commercial pressures have a way of separating the men from the boys. This is particularly so in cases which lack a measurable, repeatable outcome. That said, I should qualify my criticism by stating that I have absolutely no knowledge of what re-routing possibilities are being discounted.

There is wide room for additional testing and research into the volcanic ash phenomena. But I rather doubt that anyone is going to obtain enough repeatable data with which to derive a metric allowing a go/no go decision...not today, and not tomorrow. One or two or a dozen successful test flights say nothing, because the degradations leading to an accident do not function on a linear scale. To my knowledge, there are no tools to measure where the cloud is hazardous and where it is not in real time; perhaps someone in the research community has had an epiphany in the past couple of days, but I doubt it. At present, the cloud is either there or it isn't.

Any decision to operate based on the idea that the ash is there but not harmful is nothing less than ignorant and irresponsible, regardless of its subsequent success. Indeed, it is likely to ultimately lead to a much more cavalier operational attitude toward this problem in the future...until some unlucky sap can't get them restarted again.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 20:43
  #1265 (permalink)  
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What would be the reason that UPS have not found someone to fly their planes?
Maybe it's a company policy to not fly yet, rather than a crewing problem.

No doubt someone here will put us right on that one.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 20:44
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As was commented earlier on, by me and others, there is an obvious need for more data collection. This need was apparent last Thursday but UK (at least) appears to have no organised programme to do ANY of the following:

- consolidate all existing data on position and composition of all relevant areas of the ash cloud. ('Relevant' means 'containing enough ash of particle size x per cubic metre to exceed limits for normal aircraft turbine operation'. If there are no agreed definitions, then make some up and quickly!).

- arrange for a 'picket line' of dispensable aircraft (eg. Nimrods) to fly routes along 'known' boundaries of the relevant cloud, to reconfirm that modelling and data collection is accurate. (I'd bet a lot that neither is accurate enough.)

- set up more ground- and sea-based data collection (LIDAR?,....?) to ensure cloud can be mapped accurately for the forseeable future - noting the long potential period of eruption.

- set up notification system that allows much more flexible response, airport closures / reopening, route closures / reopening, etc. so that maximum safe air transport can be achieved. Make sure everyone (ICAO, other multinational bodies, EU, NATS, operators, ....) are all signed up to making this work.

- make sure all operators already operate recording systems that allow COMPLETE logging of all engine-hours in 'ash-prone' areas.

Get all this in place by the end of next week at latest.

THEN (and only then) decide what can be operated safely and economically, taking account of increased inspections, reduced time on-wing for ALL engines exposed to dust, ...

The cost of all this is PEANUTS compared with one day with nothing airborne across Europe!
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 20:50
  #1267 (permalink)  
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All of the engine manufacturers are advising not to fly, this extract is from the Pratt & Whitney web site:

Volcanic ash can damage aircraft and engines in several ways. P&WC encourages operators to refer to their airframe OEM’s guidance on a potential volcanic ash encounter for additional information.
While P&WC acknowledges that the Local Regulatory Authority has the final determination of whether flight operation is to be conducted, we want to inform you, our customers, of potential hazards.
P&WC does not recommend operation in conditions where volcanic ash is present. Let us explain why.
Volcanic ash may clog air filters of turbine engines, block cooling air passages, erode the gas path components, and erode the protective paint on casings. Volcanic ash entering the engine can also melt in the combustor and then re-solidify on the static turbine vanes, potentially choking the turbine airflow and leading to surging and an in-flight shut-down. It is also noted that there is a high level of acidity associated with volcanic ash, and this may also lead to deterioration of engine components.
Should you experience an encounter with volcanic ash, P&WC advises you follow the recommendations contained within the engine maintenance manual.
Peter Boyd
Chief Engineer, Customer Support
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 20:53
  #1268 (permalink)  
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I agree with the above release from P&W.However,the doubt here is just how much ash there is in the air.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 20:53
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NATS is "A World Leader In Air Traffic Management".
A bold statement. Love it or loathe it.
ATC, in spite of all the modern business-school techno-bull****, is responsible for a "Safe' Orderly and Expeditious flow of air traffic.
Any flight, departing, transiting or entering UK Airspace, is issued with an ATC clearance.
A clearance is an authorization for an aircraft to proceed under conditions specified by an Air Traffic Control unit.
How can a controller issue a clearance when there may be doubts about the safety of the environment that the aircraft he/she has 'cleared' will be operating in?
CAP493 states, under the phraseology section of witholding of ATC clearance, "It appears that your planned flight may endanger life...acknowledge"
Will the phrase 'At your discretion' become common in UK airspace, if ATC's knowledge of the aircraft operating environment is flawed?
What we have here is Nature vv Mankind's desire to make money. Nature, like Murphy, usually wins in the end.
A legal minefield? - NOT ARFF!
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:00
  #1270 (permalink)  
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Wind change:

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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:02
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Volcanic dust.

10 or 20 years ago, when we still had a "met" flight at Farnboro, there would have been a rush to; a/ map the cloud and
b/ leap into the dust to check effects and measure the crap.
Any engine problem could be overcome with a touch of the deadsticks. Since the RAF don't seem to be interested, the safest alternative would seem to be launching a 4-engine machine and minimising the possibility of an all-engine-out by having all engines at differing power settings (one at idle) and trying some suck & see.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:02
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A lot more passengers and crew have been killed (indirectly) by fog. Are you suggesting ATCOs refuse to give a take off clearance if the destination is currently in fog, or forecast that it just might be in fog when the aircraft is due to arrive?

A lot of passengers and crew have been killed by aircraft hitting mountains. Are you suggesting aircraft are not given a clearance in mountainous area or when there are mountains en route?

Of course not. ATCOs are not employed to make these macro decisions.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:03
  #1273 (permalink)  
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Wind change:
That's not a pretty sight......

Last edited by TRC; 18th Apr 2010 at 21:08. Reason: spllegin
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:05
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It was commented that a quick test flight doesn't pick up long term damage. But you don't need to be able to spot long term damage immediately. The point is that a progressive test program can be carried out. You don't need all the information at once. If you can send up aeroplanes and they don't show apparent damage in several hours flying, then you know that things can at least start moving again, even if you do engine inspections after every flight to start with - that would at least be something.

As confidence grows that there is no problem, you can return to the normal schedule. But if something comes up to make you suspect that there is a bigger problem (significant ash encounters, rising egt in a couple of aircraft from particular routes), then you take steps to find out what aircraft might also be affected and check them more intensively.

There is nothing about such a process which hasn't already been rehearsed with issues such as corrosion, cosmic rays, metal fatigue .... All it takes is somebody to write down an appropriately careful schedule. It isn't necessary to stop absolutely everything flying.

Exile from GROGGS
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:08
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Safety always wins?

Scenario 1
Airline A refuses to fly, competitors decide to fly.
Competitors damage engines or have more serious incidents.
Either could put them out of business in the long run.
Significant instances of either could put them out of business much faster.

Result -
Airline A is sitting pretty with competitors at a huge disadvantage.
Airline A is seen to be more conservative and risk averse.

Scenario 2
Airline A refuses to fly, competitors decide to fly.
Competitors have no trouble at all.

Result -
Airline A is seen to be more conservative and risk averse.

Airline A of course has to decide when to get back in the air. The longer it waits the more potential financial loss it suffers. The longer it waits, the more data supporting the decision to stop waiting it gathers.

Last edited by rp122; 18th Apr 2010 at 21:42.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:11
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A DHL 757 flew over the Banbury area at about 3 or 4 thousand feet [i guess] this morning at about 10am.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:12
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All of the engine manufacturers are advising not to fly .....
A gross misinterpretation methinks.

It's typical for an OEM to advise of possible consequences and mitigating actions. The decision to accept these possibilities is an operator's responsibility and to me is an everyday decision.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:12
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Britons stranded by flight restrictions as a result of the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland could be returned to the UK through a "Spanish hub".

Ministers met to discuss plans before UK flight restrictions were extended until at least 1900 BST on Monday.

Ideas included flying those outside the no-fly zone to Spain and then using the Royal Navy and requisitioning merchant ships to help return them to the UK.

The Tories and Lib Dems had called for ministers to give out more information.

Travel agents' association Abta said its "rough estimate" was that 150,000 Britons had been unable to return to the UK because of flight restrictions.

"At no time in living memory has British airspace been shut down and affected this many people," a spokeswoman said.

Forecasters have warned the dust cloud may remain over the UK for several days.

The continued ban on UK flights comes as bodies representing European airports and airlines have called for flight restrictions to be reviewed.

Planes were first grounded in the UK at midday on Thursday amid fears that particles in the ash cloud generated by the volcanic eruption could cause engines to shut down.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, who emerged from Sunday's 85-minute meeting of ministers flanked by several cabinet colleagues, said: "We will mobilise all possible means to get people home."

He said Prime Minister Gordon Brown would meet with his Spanish counterpart to explore whether Britons could be returned by landing in Spain - which is open to flights - from certain parts of the world.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said Met Office advice was that it would not be safe for flights across most of northern Europe on Monday.

He said data from a number of test flights would go to regulators and there would be a meeting of European transport ministers on Monday.

Additional capacity had been introduced on other transport such as Eurostar and Eurtounnel trains, and ferries, he added.

Security minister Lord West, a former head of the Royal Navy, said using the navy to bring people home was an option.

The government's Cobra emergency committee is to meet at 0830 BST on Monday.

The Conservatives have released an eight-point plan they would like to see to tackle the situation.

It includes chartering ships to bring people home who are stranded in Europe and urging ferry and rail operators to retain their normal pricing structures.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: "With thousands of Britons stuck in airports overseas, it is hugely worrying that there is no end in sight for the flight ban."

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker said it needed to be "urgently assessed" how much longer British passengers faced being stranded for.

Meanwhile, A British Airways Boeing 747 has completed a test flight at 30,000ft from Heathrow to Cardiff, via the Atlantic.

Chief executive Willie Walsh - who is a trained pilot - and four crew were on board.

BBC business editor Robert Peston reported that the 550-mile, a two-and-three-quarter hour flight had encountered no problems.

Engineers in Cardiff will make a more detailed assessment of the plane's engine overnight.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:17
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Airlines are now saying that the concentrations of ash we have appear to be safe to fly in.

But two days ago, Pprune was banning people from this thread for saying exactly the same thing (only pro grounding comments allowed).

No wonder the West (and its aviation) is in the state it is in, if free discussion is banned.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 21:17
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A gross misinterpretation methinks.
"P&WC does not recommend operation in conditions where volcanic ash is present."

Not much to mis-interpret there.
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