NY Times (interactive article)
I guess when airline companies are on the road to slow economic recovery that a natural event such as a volcano eruption might happen to disrupt even the best of plans … even if volcano eruptions have been occurring since geologic time, and Iceland is a known active volcano zone. I guess as well that companies are just itchy to fly especially after limited test-flights were carried out by BA, LH, and KL. I also guess that companies would prefer to go out and regain their customer base as soon as possible. I suppose that the various agencies which have kept European airspace closed have been “overcautious without the most up-to-date facts”, have been “relying too heavily upon statistical or model data”, and are simply “inconveniencing” stranded customers halfway around the world as well as families of tourists returning from vacation. I might also guess that the companies would like to “blame” these same agencies, and by “natural extension”, the E.U. for economic losses incurred; airline companies are now beginning to look for government help, though the word “demand” comes pretty close. I don’t suppose these various governments would help all companies around the world for their respective losses in productivity or their respective employees for their lost wages …
Should any plane develop trouble going between SFC and FLT 350, I suppose that the first fingers of blame would be pointed at the very same agencies monitoring European airspace. The accusations would fly: the airspace authorities were not sufficiently careful to warn airline companies of the inherent dangers of flying through ash, and these authorities were being careless to put airline-staff and their customers at risk.
Well, I guess if the companies are yelling the loudest, they must all be true, all of the time.
– HL, 2105h GMT, 19 April 2010.
PostScript 1 : 2145h GMT, 19 Apr 2010
See also this BBC article regarding British Airways flight 009 (24 June 1982) and how the Boeing 747 lost all four engines as the plane went into an ash cloud, and the Wikipedia article for more information about the flight. As always, your kilometrage may vary.
Given the predictions from the UK MetOffice regarding the migration of the ash cloud over Europe and the North Atlantic :
one might imagine that the volcano Eyjafjallajokull will continue to huff and puff for days. The next on offer might be to conceive some interesting options for gateways into the European continent.
If disruptions to flight-ops for LHR, FRA, CDG/ORL, AMS, ZRH, etc. were to continue, one might envision the (crazy?) possibility of using Madrid (MAD) or even Rome (FCO) as alternative gateways into which a number of major transcon flights would enter the European continent, assuming approved ascents and descents between surface and flight-level 35,000 feet (SFC and FLT 350).
As MAD appears to be in a zone relatively free of ash (see UK MetOffice map above), questions raised about the possibility of utilizing MAD as a “high-tier European hub” would include: terminal and facility capacity for increased numbers in inbound/outbound pax, in airline- and ground-staff, as well as gate-capacity and pax-controls (as well as the controlled separation between Schengen and non-Schengen traffic). Since MAD is an Iberia and OneWorld hub and is already served by various AA and IB non-stops (for example, to North- and South America), diverting additional AA, IB, and BA transcon/transat traffic to MAD from LHR or FRA might not seem so problematic. The fun begins when one begins thinking about incorporating operations by other transcon carriers from North America, the Middle East, and Asia, let alone the inclusion of Lufthansa, which operates the lion’s share of air traffic within Europe.
With possible flight-ops restricted to below FLT 200 and to VFR-only ops, “IntraEuropean” flights from MAD to other European cities/capitals would be curtailed and operated at strict frequencies. It would be like bus-service after all, and I wonder if some of the airlines wouldn’t be going on a run for more smaller/narrow-body planes, or even RJs or turboprops, if the companies could figure out a decent service-plan and a return (if any!) on going to smaller aircraft. The impact on European LCCs would be something to consider, too, but that’s beyond what I had originally in mind …
As a whole, picturing an alternative means of entering Europe in an “ash-free” zone and how the facility like MAD would cope with additional capacity were both worth a moment’s pause.
Yeah, it’s crazy, and I might be wrong, but it’s just a thought.
HL – 0345h GMT, 19 Apr 2010