My Blog

Feb 25, 2015

"Volcanic ash clouds"

Category: Blog
Posted by: kimba

Have you ever heard of this - "Air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption" ?

Just like it says on the page, "in response to concerns that volcanic ash ejected during the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland would damage aircraft engines, the controlled airspace of many European countries was closed to instrument flight rules traffic, resulting in the largest air-traffic shut-down since World War II".

I remember how it was, since it was the time when I was frequently flying to Zagreb to see my love who was living there at that time. It occurred twice that I had to prolong my visit because of the cancellation of the flight, which wasn't bad since we lived 400 km away from each other and every such extra day was very welcome, and I had to travel by train on the next day, which again wasn't bad since travelling by train can be very charming and interesting. I was constantly checking the flight status to see if I will be able to travel on the day, or I have to look for an alternative way of transport.

But that later all appeared to be totally unnecessary - I remember very well, that on one of the days of the air traffic closure (it was exactly April 17), when those "ash clouds" were supposed to be over our heads at that very moment, the sky was perfectly clear, there hasn't been even a single cloud in the sky, not to mention a big and thick ash cloud. Even when on the same day I went hiking with my love and her family on a peak near Zagreb named Japetić, at an altitude of 815 meters (at the mountain hut Žitnica, to be exact) there wasn't any ash cloud to be seen in the distance. But on that April 17 the air traffic remained closed (and my flight cancelled), and so I had to travel back home by train on the next day.

One of the rare articles that I found today who mention that these air traffic closures were fake is this one: "The ash cloud that never was: How volcanic plume over UK was only a twentieth of safe-flying limit and blunders led to ban" (Daily Mail, dated April 25, 2010). In there it is revealed that "the full extent of the shambles behind the great airspace shutdown that cost the airlines £1.3 billion and left 150,000 Britons stranded - all for a supposed volcanic ash cloud that for most of the five-day flights ban was so thin it was invisible".

Fake alert? Yes, that's right! Of course, nowadays this isn't anything new or revolutionary, but look what I've just found (dated November 13, 2013): "Easyjet has created a fake ash cloud(...)"... Didn't exactly this happen 5 years ago? Something that wasn't supposed to happen, or better yet, something that didn't really happen at all?

I wish there were official answers to these questions...

UPDATE (January 14, 2019 - 4 years later): Well, you can't really expect such answers, but probably as the "solution" of this "problem", the Single European Sky has been introduced and impelemented in the meantime to "solve problems with delays of flights in Europe". It sounds great that the European air traffic is finally monitored and controlled from a single location, but doesn't that sound scary at the same time? Also, the croatian version of an article from the European Parliament on that topic is titled "More flights, more control". The word "control" here is also the thing that is scaring me...