Volcano In Iceland: Progress In Air Restrictions, NATS Sees Hope
Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Eruption Weakens, Brings Hope To European Airline Industry
The Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland keeps on spewing out smoke and ash, but the drastic situation surrounding air travel restrictions enacted throughout Europe seems to be moving from a standstill.
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The U.K.'s national weather service MetOffice.com is reporting that the Eyjafjallajokull volcano is now spewing out more steam and less ash, potentially giving the airline industry and thousands of stranded passengers a glimpse of hope. The service says volcano eruptions are weakening, but says the weather patterns are still blowing ash towards the U.K.
The press release for April 19 by the British air service NATS that cites the Met Office for information sounded more optimistic than ever in last five days since the Iceland volcano started erupting. "The volcanic eruption has reduced and the volcano is not currently emitting ash to altitudes that will affect the UK," notes NATS. "Assuming there are no further significant ash emissions we are now looking at a continuously improving situation." NATS predicts the air restrictions across U.K. controlled airspace will stay in place until 0700 (U.K. time) on Tuesday, April 20.
It is now reported that German air carrier Lufthansa was granted a permission to fly 50 planes back to Germany with 15,000 lucky passengers on board, according to AP. Meanwhile, British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh says test flight prove that blanket restrictions are 'unnecessary.' BA and some other air carriers have now asked the European Union for financial bailout in the wake of the eruption imposed closures of the skies and grounded flights. It has been reported that the airline industry has sustained up to 150-200 million euros a day in financial losses due to the disrupted flight operations that the volcano eruption in Iceland caused.
At the same time, it has been reported today that several NATO F-16 fighters suffered engine damage after flying through the volcanic ash cloud. AP cites glass-like deposits being found in the planes' engines. It is alleged by aviation experts that flying through ash clouds could create dangerous build-up inside planes' engines and lead to overheating and ultimately engine failure.
However, while the ash clouds might be slowly clearing around U.K. and Europe, the ash residues are now reaching the east coast of North America, potentially impeding domestic air traffic. Toronto's Pearsons airport reports that flights to and from Europe continue to be affected by the Icelandic volcano. It says passengers scheduled to fly to Europe are strongly encouraged to check with their airline to confirm the status of their flight before coming to the airport.
Only the Newfoundland area of Canada is reported to be affected so far. Globe and Mail reports overnight flights off Newfoundland had been cancelled in the face of a Navigation Canada warning Sunday that ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano could reach St. John's airspace. But, flights were cleared for Monday morning. The ash is predicted to reach New York by early morning on Monday. However, Bloomberg cites experts as saying the amount of ash likely to reach North America as "infinitesimal."
See the following map issued by the Met Office showing the spread of the volcanic ash across the globe.