Britain warns of possible ash cloud disruption

23rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's aviation authority warned Monday of possible disruption to air travel as a cloud of ash spewed out by an Icelandic volcano was forecast to reach Scottish airspace overnight.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said in a statement that it had "warned that disruption to aviation couldn't be ruled out" after the Grimsvoetn volcano began its most powerful eruption in more than a century.

"Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of people both onboard aircraft and on the ground," Andrew Haines, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, said in a statement.

"We can't rule out disruption, but the new arrangements that have been put in place since last year's ash cloud mean the aviation sector is better prepared and will help to reduce any disruption in the event that volcanic ash affects UK airspace."

Two days into the eruption of Grimsvoetn, there are fears of a repeat of the situation a year ago when Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano closed most of Europe's airspace in the worst disruption to air travel since World War II.

Forecasters said ash from the latest eruption is set to reach Scotland late Monday or early Tuesday -- just as US President Barack Obama heads to Britain from Ireland.

"Ash is likely to reach parts of northern and western Scotland overnight tonight and early tomorrow," a spokeswoman for Britain's Met Office told AFP.

"How this affects flight routing will be determined by the CAA and NATS (National Air Traffic Services) together with individual airlines."

The spokeswoman said other parts of Britain could see some ash later in the week "but there is a lot of uncertainty. It could be an unsettled week with strong winds."

Obama is set to fly to London on Tuesday as part of a six-day European tour of four countries. After his state visit to Britain he is due to fly to France on Thursday.

NATS said it was closely monitoring the potential for disruption from the volcano but said that "at present, there is no impact."

The CAA said that since last year's crisis it had brought in new measures, including that areas of high, medium and low density ash will be identified using data from the Met Office.

Instead of a blanket ban on flights, British airlines wishing to operate in high or medium density ash will now have to have a safety request approved by the CAA.

The request sets out measures airlines will take to reduce the risk of flying through ash.

"None has so far submitted a safety case to operate in high density ash," it said.

© 2011 AFP

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