Northern England airports at risk from volcano cloud: Eurocontrol

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A volcanic ash cloud led to 300 cancelled flights in European airspace Wednesday, with a chance that airport closures in Northern Ireland and Scotland could spread to northern England, authorities said.

Some 28,700 flights were expected to take off and land during the day, just below normal levels, said Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic control across Europe.

According to the latest ash concentration figures from the London-based Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, the area where the cloud emanating from the volcano in Iceland exceeds flight safety levels covered western Scotland and Northern Ireland.

"The situation is not expected to improve in this area during the day. The whole of Ireland, West Scotland and north-west England could be affected, with a risk to operations at Manchester and Liverpool airports," Eurocontrol warned.

On the plus side, there was no impact on planes overflying Europe's airspace.

"All measures only apply to flights below 20,000 feet (6,000 metres). The early morning transatlantic flow was normal," Brussels-based Eurocontrol said.

The levels of volcanic dust in the atmosphere remain well below those seen last month, when an airspace shutdown in several European nations caused travel chaos for millions worldwide.

Eurocontrol said more than 100,000 flights to, from and within Europe were cancelled between April 15 and 21, preventing an estimated 10 million passengers from travelling.

To add to the air travel problems on Wednesday, Greek airspace was also closed for all arriving, departing and domestic traffic as a result of industrial action, Eurocontrol said.

© 2010 AFP

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