France Airport Guide


Monday, 19 April 2010

Volcanic ash disruption leaves Britons stranded

The UK is experiencing its fourth day as a virtual no-fly zone due to volcanic ash drifting from Iceland, leaving thousands of Britons stranded.

Flight restrictions have been extended until at least 0700 BST on Monday and forecasters say the ash cloud could remain over the UK for many more days.

Several countries including the UK are carrying out test flights.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called a top-level ministerial meeting to discuss the situation.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The meeting will cover a number of issues, including the assistance being provided to those Britons who have been unable to travel home, and the implications for industry.
"They will also look at what more can be done on a European level."

On Monday, EU transport ministers are meeting to consider whether flights could resume even if volcanic ash remained in the atmosphere.

Dutch airline KLM and German airline Lufthansa have carried out test flights in their countries' airspace to see if it is safe for planes to fly.

KLM, which is inspecting test plane engines for possible damage with a view to restarting operations, said its aircraft had been able to fly at normal operating altitude of 13km (8 miles) over Dutch skies and no problems had been reported.

"We have found nothing unusual, neither during the flight, nor during the first inspection on the ground," said KLM chief executive Peter Hartman, who took part in his airline's test.

Lufthansa said it flew 10 planes from Frankfurt to Munich at heights of up to 8km (5 miles).
Air France said it had successfully carried out a test flight from Paris to Toulouse.
Germany has opened six airports for flights heading east until 1900 BST, and several will remain open in southern France.

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.

Transport secretary Lord Adonis said further test flights would take place in the UK to help understand the extent of the impact of the ash cloud.

He said: "I wish to establish, as a matter of urgency, whether some safe flight paths can be identified and opened up to flights within the area affected by ash."

Meanwhile, Brian Flynn, head of operations at Eurocontrol, the organisation in charge of air safety in Europe, denied aviation authorities were being over cautious.

He said: "The accepted methodology that we have in Europe - the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organisation - are the guidelines that we are using, and that is that any risk of an aircraft penetrating an area that could have volcanic ash in it could have extreme safety consequences."

Mr Flynn said the "over-riding objective of protecting the travelling public" meant exceptional measures had to be taken.



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