Volcanic ash cloud: Where is it now - May 18?
The volcanic ash cloud from Iceland dissipated today and a British Airways labor strike was canceled, allowing Europe's airports to return to near-normal operations. But the British Met Office is taking fire for its volcanic ash cloud forecasts.
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“This means that areas of our airspace that would have previously been closed can safely open, further minimizing flight disruption,” the CAA announced on its website. The CAA said the widened fly zone came after analyzing test flights through the current ash cloud over the past month, as well as examining data and evidence compiled from previous volcanic ash incidents combined with additional analysis from manufacturers.Skip to next paragraph
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“Unprecedented situations require new measures,” CAA Chief Executive Andrew Haines said in a statement, adding that aircraft- and engine-makers should determine what level of ash their planes can tolerate.
The UK air traffic control company NATS said, on its website, it was "delighted that restrictions on UK airspace can today be eased," which meant there were "no predicted restrictions on UK airspace in the immediate future."
“There is mounting evidence that aircraft can fly safely through areas of medium density, provided some additional precautions are taken. This is now what has been agreed,” NATS Chief Executive Officer Richard Deakin said the statement. NATS is the now privatized national air traffic control service formerly run by the British government.
MET under fire
The ash cloud's dissipation and the smaller no-fly zone allowed airports in Britain to return to normal operations Tuesday, but finger-pointing has now risen over the accuracy of weekend forecasts from the British Met Office that caused the CAA to impose a six-hour, no-fly zone over southern Britain early Monday, causing the cancellation of 200 flights at Heathrow, 88 at Gatwick, and 40 at Liverpool airport.
Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways, said the ash cloud simply “did not exist” over London on Monday. Virgin Atlantic head Sir Richard Branson said the MET had made "crass, stupid decisions." The CAA also criticized the Met Office, saying the agency had forecast "something which was not subsequently backed up.”
For its part, the Met defended its forecasting.
"There was ash over the UK,” MET press officer John Hammond said, according to the UK Press Association. “Our forecasts are updated regularly and are based on a number of factors, including observations from space and inputs from our colleagues in Iceland. I cannot stress enough just how changeable the ash-cloud situation is. There is change hour by hour and we try to feed through as much information as we possibly can."