UK: Volcanic ash cloud set to cause disruption to flights
FLIGHTS were being cancelled or disrupted today because of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.
On Saturday the Grimsvotn volcano erupted, prompting fears of a repeat of the travel chaos last April caused by the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, which saw flights over Europe grounded for six days and passengers stranded all over the world.
The Obamas landed to a hastily-prepared welcome at Stansted Airport, as their schedule was moved ahead because of the ash cloud.
The president and first lady landed in Air Force One just after 10.15pm, arriving in darkness rather than the morning light they were due to be greeted by tomorrow.
But despite the hasty change to their planned schedule, the couple were still given the formal welcome expected of a state visit.
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The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were originally due to meet the Obamas tomorrow, but instead the couple were greeted by the Lord in Waiting Viscount Brookeborough, who met them on behalf of the Queen.
Six flights from Norwich International Airport to Aberdeen have been cancelled:
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• T3722 Norwich to Aberdeen
• T3723 Aberdeen to Norwich
• T3726 Norwich to Aberdeen
• T3727 Aberdeen to Norwich
• BD1310 Aberdeen to Norwich
• BD1311 Norwich to Aberdeen
The 8.54am flight from Norwich to Edinburgh is still due to fly, but, because the flight from Edinburgh to Norwich which was due to arrive at 8.20am has been delayed, is likely to leave an hour later than scheduled.
But BA, KLM, Aer Lingus and Easyjet have suspended services in and out of Scotland as the ash plume drifts over the north of the UK.
And Ryanair has objected to advice from Irish officials to ground flights to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen until at least 1pm.
A statement on the budget airline’s website said: “Ryanair strongly object to this decision and believe that there is no basis for these flight cancellations and will be meeting with the IAA on Tuesday morning to have this restriction on Ryanair flights removed as a matter of urgency.
“Ryanair believe that there is no safety risk to aircraft on fights operating to and from Scotland and together with other airlines will be complaining to the Transport Minister and Regulatory Authorities about these latest and unnecessary cancellations.”
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) yesterday said it was confident that a new Europe-wide safety regime introduced after the Eyjafjallajokull eruption last year would reduce disruption significantly and avoid the continental shutdown that stranded millions.
Under previous guidelines, aeroplanes were summarily grounded if there was any volcanic ash in the air. Now, airlines can fly through ash plumes if they have a safety case demonstrating that their fleets can handle medium or high-level densities of ash.
A CAA spokesman said most major airlines already have safety cases for medium-density ash clouds. He said: “We are in a much better position than last time. Safety will still be paramount but we will be able to drastically reduce disruption compared to last time, provided there is not a huge amount of high-density ash.” The spokesman said a similar level of ash to the Eyjafjallajokull incident would not result in a mass-grounding. “It will be a different picture.”
The Grimsvotn volcano began erupting on Sunday, causing flights to be cancelled at Iceland’s main Keflavik airport after it sent a plume of ash smoke and steam 12 miles (19km) into the air.
Experts have said the eruption was unlikely to have the dramatic impact that the Eyjafjallajokull volcano had in April 2010.
For flight information at Norwich International Airport log onto www.norwichairport.co.uk/ or Stansted log onto www.stanstedairport.com/