What does the ash cloud event mean for the aviation industry?

The dust is settling (excuse the pun) on last week’s ash cloud story and despite some airspace still being affected by the continuing ash in the air, it is clear that two main issues will stay with the industry for longer. Namely, who should pay compensation to the passengers of these flights and were governments too cautious in waiting so long before letting aircraft back in the air.

David Learmount on his blog  explained the difficulties in judging a “safeconcentration level” of ash particles in the air but also the dangersto the engine of flying too early:

The first problem with making decisions about whether – or not – to flyin the volcanic ash cloud over Europe, is the lack of scientific dataabout the effects on aircraft of this type of very fine atmosphericash, in this concentration.

How much, if any, volcanic dust can anaeroplane fly through safely, and without causing progressivedegradation that will gradually make its engines inefficient anduneconomic?

The second problem is that, apart from the volcano’score plume, which can be seen by satellite, aviation authorities haveno active means of tracking the movement of the dispersing ash, whichcovers a wide area.

The position of the dispersing ash can only becalculated using mathematical models, which are turning out to befairly accurate, but not sufficiently accurate to enable aircraft to betactically directed to safe sky sectors.

Issues of safety should always be judged cautiously but were we too cautious?Join the aviation forum debate on whether, in your opinion. “Weregovernments too cautious in dealing with the ash cloud problem?

The Flightglobal poll asks the question that many airline CEOs are thinking, who should pay for compensating passengers? Should airlines be ready to address the unpredictability ofthis and any situation. Or is a situation like this just too unpredictable and infrequent to contemplate seriously? Join the aviation forum debate on. “Shouldairlines foot the bill for compensating passengers?”

Additional writing from Georgia Ray

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