| 17 April 2010
A huge cloud of ash from a volcano in Iceland on Thursday became the skies of northern Europe in an area not suitable for flying, leaving hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded.
The aviation security organization in Europe said the interruption, which is the largest seen in the region, could last two days and a leading volcanologist said that ash could pose problems for air traffic intermittently for six months if the eruption continues.
But even if the interruption is quickly exceeded, the financial impact on airlines is likely to be significant, said one specialist.
The volcano began erupting on Wednesday for the second time in a month since the bottom of the glacier Eyjafjallajökull, throwing into the air a cloud of ash between six and 11 miles southeast spread overnight.
Volcanic ash contains tiny particles of glass and pulverized rock that can damage engines and one of Iceland volcanologist said on Thursday that the eruption was increasing its intensity.
Great Britain extended the closure of its airspace, except for emergencies, until at least 1200 GMT on Friday, from 06:00 GMT advance.
This is the first bear in mind that natural disasters cause such a disruption, said a spokeswoman for National Air Traffic Service of Great Britain (NATS, for its acronym in English).
Even after the attacks on America of September 11, 2001, Britain did not close its airspace, he added.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, had to cancel a trip to the town of Murmansk in the Arctic, on Thursday. “The cloud has covered the entire region,” said his spokesman.
OTHER 48 HOURS
French officials said they will close for 24 hours north of the country’s airports before the end on Thursday, including Paris.
The airports of Brussels, Amsterdam and Geneva said it canceled a large number of flights and the spokesman for the European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol aviation, Brian Flynn, said the problem could persist for another 48 hours.
Finland closed down all its airports from midnight on Thursday.
In Spain, Aena reported that they had canceled a total of 237 flights until noon. The airport authority asked the passengers who were scheduled to fly later in the day to contact their airline.
The staff of airlines from Stansted Airport, northeast of London, told clients that he would remain closed until Sunday, the passenger said Andy Evans.
“People just do not know what to do,” he said. “There are hundreds of people in the rows of stalls,” he added.
A spokesman for Heathrow, the busiest airport in Europe, said that 840 of 1,250 flights were disrupted on Thursday, affecting about 180,000 passengers. More than 120,000 passengers were affected at the airports of Gatwick, Stansted and Glasgow.
“We continue to work closely with airports, airlines and the rest of Europe to understand and mitigate the implications of the volcanic eruption,” said NATS in a statement.
Frankfurt, the third busiest airport in Europe, had no plans to close but the authors analyze the situation. The Berlin air terminal will be closed until 0200 local time on Friday, while Bremen, Hamburg and Hannover will make up to 08.00 hours.
A spokesman for the Air Transport Association of America, David A. Castelveter said the airline had suspended flights on Thursday, about 165 of over 300 that are performed daily. Most goes to Britain.
Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) canceled 65 flights Friday morning from the U.S. to cities such as Amsterdam, Brussels and even Mumbai, his spokesman Anthony Black said in an e-mail.
United Airlines suspended 30 arrivals and 32 departures to Europe from the continent, while Continental Airlines (CAL.N) reported 32 cancellations and 34 American.
In 1982, a British Airways flight lost power in its engines when it entered a cloud of ash that covered Indonesia, dropping to only a few thousand feet above the ground before they can restart their engines.
Scientists said the ash is not a health risk due to the height at which it is located.
SORCE: Daily News