Video: Qantas explains why it didn’t fly during the ash cloud

This week Qantas has seemed helpless responding to Air New Zealand’s assertion that the Australian carrier, unlike Air NZ, opted not to spend extra money on fuel to fly around or below the ash cloud, sometimes increasing the flight route’s distance by 10%. Qantas was adamant with its short “safety over schedule” maxim while Air New Zealand’s chief pilot David Morgan went into limited detail about its flight operations to circumvent the ashcloud. To that Qantas responded with a meager #safetyfirst hashtag on Twitter.

Now Qantas has pulled out all the PR stops, making a four minute video with its chief pilot, Peter Wilson, as well as head of operations Alan Milne. (Virgin Australia in its statements, which mainly announced it would fly routes, unlike Qantas, had non-inflammatory quotes from its head of operations, Sean Donohue.) The video is below.

The key statement is from Wilson, who says: “[With] the base level of the ash cloud, there were question marks as to was there ash below this base? Ash is subjective to gravity, like most other things, and there may well be ash falling out beneath it. Therefore the decision was taken that we would not operate in known areas of ash. We do not want to go near volcanic ash.”

A similar debate about the actual, not projected, location of ash has occurred in Europe during its two past ash clouds. To that airlines including KLM, Lufthansa, and British Airways conducted demonstration to probe the area of ash, and found operations were safe. No demonstration flights are known to have occurred in this region.

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