Swiss run test flights through volcanic ash

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The Swiss airforce and Swiss airlines are running several test flights Monday to verify if it is safe for planes to fly despite the volcanic ash cloud, a Swiss official said.

"Swiss (airlines) and the airforce are currently running test flights to check if mechanically, it is safe" to fly, land and take off despite the ash cloud, a spokeswoman from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation told AFP.

She added that results from the test would be published later Monday.

"There were test flights flown by the airforce for the Federal Office of Civil Aviation," a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

A F-5 Tiger, a Superpuma helicopter and a propeller plane Pilatus Porter were used in the tests, he added.

According to Swiss newswire ATS, Swiss airlines flew an Airbus A319 in the test.

Swiss authorities earlier Monday extended a ban on commercial flights landing and taking off in the country to Tuesday at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) as a further layer of volcanic ash cloud from Iceland is expected.

Aircraft are however allowed to overfly the country at high altitudes of above 21,000 feet (6,400 metres) as the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland has settled below this level.

Switzerland has imposed restrictions on its airspace since Friday night particularly on flights operated by instruments.

Air traffic across Europe has been disrupted since Thursday as the cloud of ash from the eruption of a volcano in southeast Iceland started spreading southwards and eastwards.

© 2010 AFP

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