Volcano ash cloud delays hit Heathrow and Gatwick

17.5.2010 (BBC)

The CAA banned flights at  Heathrow and Gatwick  between 0100 BST and 0700 BST
on Monday.

Gatwick is not taking arrivals between 0700 BST and 1300 BST and Heathrow warned
of continuing disruption until at least 1300 BST.

Some airports in the north and Midlands, including Birmingham and Manchester,
re-opened at 0100 BST.

Leeds-Bradford Airport also confirmed the ban imposed on flights on Sunday would
be lifted, while East Midlands and Norwich airports re-opened from 0100 BST.

Other airports closed on Sunday, including Liverpool, Blackpool, Humberside,
Durham Tees Valley and Robin Hood, have yet to confirm when flights might resume.

However, none of these were included in the latest CAA ban which was issued at
2245 BST.

Volcaic eruption on Eyjafjallajokull

The ash cloud has been thrown up by eruptions on the Eyjafjallajokull glacier

Stansted, Luton and Newcastle airports were among those unaffected by Sunday’s
closures and remained open to aircraft

* * * *
Passengers using Britain’s busiest airports face major disruption after the return
to UK airspace of the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano.

Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports resumed limited flights after being
completely closed until 0700 BST.

But flights remain grounded in Northern Ireland and much of Scotland and Wales.

Passengers are being urged to check with their airlines before travelling. Restrictions
are expected in parts of the UK until Tuesday.

In the Netherlands, Amsterdam’s Schiphol, Rotterdam and Groningen airports are
closed until 1400 local time (1300 BST).

Flights in and out of Dublin, in the Irish Republic, are also grounded until
at least noon.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC the government and airline industry
were working together to allow more flights to operate while there was ash in
the atmosphere.

Safety fears are based on the threat of ash being turned into molten glass as
it hits the heat of aircraft engines, thereby crippling the plane.



Nats Director Ian Hall: Gatwick planes “can depart but not land” (volcano video
11 May)

A spokesman for air traffic authority Nats said Gatwick was due to be closed to arrivals until 1300 BST and departures would
be subject to restrictions.

“One side of the airport is clear and the other side, where the final approach
track is, actually has a cloud of ash which goes right across final approach,”
said Nats director Ian Hall.

“So, very frustratingly for everyone, we can’t get the aircraft into Gatwick
but we can get them out.”

Eurocontrol, the European air safety body, said Heathrow arrivals would be limited
to 30 an hour initially – down from the usual 42 – and it warned of significant

Knock-on disruption was likely to continue throughout Monday, a Heathrow spokesman

Other developments across the UK include:

• All flights in and out of Northern Ireland’s three main airports have been cancelled until lunchtime. The Irish Aviation Authority has temporarily closed airports in Dublin, Sligo and Donegal.

• In Scotland no flights are arriving at or departing from Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Prestwick
airports. Inverness, Dundee, Wick and Campbeltown airports are also closed until

• In Wales flights in and out of Cardiff airport have been cancelled until early afternoon.

The Department of Transport has warned restrictions are likely across different
parts of the UK until at least Tuesday.


The latest from:
UK air traffic authority Nats
UK aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority
EU air safety body Eurocontrol
UK travel association Abta
International Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres via the UK Met Office
More from the BBC:

Meanwhile Network Rail pledged to do everything possible to help stranded travellers
make journeys by train.

Virgin Trains said 7,000 extra seats would be made available on Monday, mainly
on routes between Birmingham and Glasgow and Edinburgh, and between London Euston
and Glasgow.

Eurostar is also laying on extra services through the Channel Tunnel.

The latest dense patch of ash has already disrupted the travel plans of tens
of thousands of people over the weekend, mainly in northern parts of the UK.

Airspace over Northern Ireland was the first to close on Saturday, before the
cloud moved south and grounded flights in many parts of the UK on Sunday.

Ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano has led to thousands of flights being delayed
or cancelled across Europe since April.




Restrictions are based on the density of ash in airspace, and the threshold level
that forces a ban was raised by the CAA following six days of airport closures
last month.

But after the latest airport closures this weekend, airlines have criticised
the amended regulations.

On Sunday, Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson called the closure of
Manchester airport “beyond a joke”.

“All the test flights by airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers have shown
no evidence that airlines could not continue to fly completely safely,” he said.

Higher threshold?

British Airways said airlines should be able to decide whether it was safe to
fly, as the current approach was “overly restrictive”.

But Mr Hammond said: “The threshold at which air is considered unsafe to fly
through has already increased 10-fold from a 200-microgram limit to a 2,000-microgram
limit, and that was agreed with the airlines after the last period of closure.



“Work is ongoing with the airlines, with the aircraft manufacturers, with the
engine manufacturers, to see if a safe operating regime could be introduced at
a yet higher threshold of ash, with enhanced, more regular engine inspections.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are not there yet but we are optimistic
that progress will be made and that, of course, would have a very significant
impact on the level of disruption that the continuing volcanic eruption is having
on UK airspace.”

CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: “It’s the CAA’s job to ensure the public
is kept safe by ensuring safety decisions are based on scientific and engineering
evidence; we will not listen to those who effectively say, ‘Let’s suck it and