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IN FOCUS...Twenty First ISSUE, April 2010
IN FOCUS...The Spiraling Effects of Volcanic Eruption.
Collected and Contributed by CCT TEAM

The second eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland on 14 April 2010 caused extensive air travel disruption. In response to fears that ash ejected by the volcano would damage aircraft engines, the controlled airspace of many countries was closed to IFR traffic in what became the largest air traffic shut-down since World War II. This action caused millions of passengers to be stranded not only in Europe, but across the world.


The eruption occurred beneath glacial ice. The cold water from the melting ice chilled the lava quickly, causing it to fragment into very small particles of glass (silica) and ash, which were carried into the eruption plume. Due to the extremely fine nature of the ash particles and the large volume of steam produced from the glacial meltwater, an ash plume that is hazardous to aircraft was rapidly sent high into the upper atmosphere. The presence and location of the plume depended upon the state of the eruption and the winds. Due to the way air masses function, and because of the large volume of steam produced by this eruption, the plume was injected into the jet stream.

With large parts of European airspace closed to air traffic, many more countries were affected as flights to and from Europe were cancelled.

At 20:00 UTC on 16 April the ash cloud reached Kazakhstan. As of 17 April 2010 (2010 -04-17), the eruption was continuing, but less explosively; the plume was rising to 5 kilometres (3 mi) rather than 13 kilometres (8 mi) previously; not high enough to travel across Europe. The forecast for 18 April at 06:00 showed a significant plume continuing over northern Europe. Jet stream forecasts indicated the ash cloud plume would persist until at least 21 April, shifting to the south and affecting more southerly parts of France and Italy.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that the airline industry worldwide would lose €148 million (US$200 million, GB£130 million) a day during the disruption Background.

The London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) was responsible for providing information about the ash plume to the relevant Civil Aviation Authorities in the form of Volcanic Ash Advisories (VAA). On the basis of this, the authorities made decisions about when and where airspace should be closed due to the safety issues. Their decisions resulted in the cancellations of flights at airports across the world, not only in those countries where airspace was restricted. On 16 April 2010, 16,000 of Europe's usual 28,000 daily scheduled passenger flights were cancelled and on the 17 April, 16,000 of the usual 22,000 flights were cancelled.

By 21 April 95,000 flights had been cancelled.

Prior to this, the most severe restrictions to air travel in recent times were following the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States when all (not just scheduled) civil air traffic in US airspace, and to and from the United States, was grounded for three days. The Eyjafjallajökull eruption grounded most scheduled passenger air traffic with and within northern Europe from 15 April 2010, and there was no expectation of a return to normality before 21 April at the earliest. Airspace restrictions Under international regulations, all scheduled passenger flights operate under the instrument flight rules which requires clearance to be obtained from air traffic control. In the following countries no IFR clearances could be granted because the controlled airspace was closed to IFR traffic. At various times, some airspace was re-opened to IFR traffic, including scheduled passenger flights. Non IFR flights are largely unaffected.

The restrictions were eventually lifted over much of Europe through the introduction of new guidelines on volcanic ash density, which as of 23 April 2010 (2010 -04-23) allow aircraft to fly when there are low levels of volcanic ash. Low levels of between 200 and 2000 microgrammes of ash per cubic metre, although sufficient to increase wear on the engines, are not thought to have safety implications. Attempts to reopen airspace were initiated.

Ash plume were blowing across the North Atlantic on 15 April.

There were brief windows free of the cloud at any given location which were exploited to make a few aircraft movements.

On 16 April a 30-minute break at Manchester allowed two flights to land, and one aircraft to be moved to Florida, empty (as there was no time for passengers to board). At Glasgow, an Air Transat flight to Toronto took off while a British Airways flight from New York, and a Thomas Cook flight from Or lan do and Icelandair flights from Keflavik landed.

On 17 April 2010, the president of German airline Air Berlin, in an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, stated that the risks for flights due to this volcanic haze were nonexistent, because the assessment was based only on a computer simulation produced by the VAAC. He went on to claim that the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt closed German airspace without checking the accuracy of these simulations. Spokesmen for Lufthansa and KLM stated that during their test flights, required by the European Union, there were no problems with the aircraft.

The eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano on 14 April 2010 affected the economic, political and cultural activities in Europe and across the world.

There was extensive air travel disruption caused by the closure of airspace over many countries affecting the travel arrangements of hundreds of thousands of people in Europe and elsewhere, including politicians and members of royal families. Sporting, entertainment any many other events were cancelled, delayed or disrupted when individuals or teams were unable to travel to their destination.

The state funeral of President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife on 18 April 2010 was affected as some national leaders were unable to attend, including Barack Obama, Stephen Harper, Angela Merkel, and Nicolas Sarkozy.

Particulate matter in the ejected dust scatters light from the setting sun, generating 'volcanic lavenders' like this one over the flight path of Leeds-Bradford Airport in England during the aviation shutdown.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated the airline industry worldwide losses £130 million ($200 million) a day as a result of flight cancellations. Following Air France-KLM's and British Airways' requests to the European Union, and additionally in the latter's case to the British government, for compensation, Gordon Brown announced that the EU Solidarity fund, designed to aid EU member states in the event of large-scale disasters, could be a possible source of compensation. The EU's competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, also said the EU was considering easing its rules on governmental subsidies to airlines. Jet fuel prices went down.