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Flight ban in Ireland and parts of UK over new Volcanic ash cloud risk

All flights in and out of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have been grounded since 0700 BST because of fresh risks from volcanic ash.

Airspace over Scotland's Outer Hebrides was closed, affecting Tiree, Barra and Benbecula airports, with Campeltown in Argyll also closed.

Flights in and out of the Republic are due to resume from 1300 BST.

An ash plume is drifting south from the same Icelandic volcano that wreaked havoc to European air travel in April.

Flights over Europe were banned for six days last month because of fears of the effect of volcanic ash on plane engines.

In the rest of the UK, schedules are operating as normal.

The decision to lift the restrictions followed safety tests that showed the engines could cope in areas of low density ash.

The fresh disruption comes as European Union transport ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss ways to improve air traffic management in the wake of last month's events.

Last week a spokeswoman for EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said that had there been more co-ordination at EU level, air traffic could have resumed up to three days earlier.

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All UK Air Space Now Open After Iceland Volcanic Ash Cloud Levels Ruled Safe – Flights To Resume!

All UK airports have been given the go-ahead to reopen, the Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has said.

After six days of disruption due to a cloud of volcanic ash from an Icelandic volcano, airlines can now start a phased return to flight schedules.

The decision followed consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority and a reassessment of the risk to aircraft.

BAA, which operates many of the UK's airports, said people should contact their airlines before travelling.

"Not all flights will operate during the early period of opening, and we will do everything we can to support airlines and get people moving," a spokesman said.

Some restrictions will remain on flights in UK airspace, but they will be much less severe than before.

Dame Deirdre Hutton, of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said there had been detailed consultation with experts to reassess the tolerance of planes to the ash cloud.

The CAA said it was a "situation without precedent" and that decisions had been made based on "thorough gathering of data and analysis".

'Increased tolerance'

"The major barrier to resuming flight has been understanding tolerance levels of aircraft to ash," the CAA said.

"Manufacturers have now agreed increased tolerance levels in low ash density areas."

Lord Adonis emphasised that safety remained paramount.

He said: "It is essential that we guarantee to the travelling public that the airlines are safe and that planes can safely fly."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "This solution has been reached as a result of the close working between the government, the Civil Aviation Authority, airlines and the manufacturers, and will allow the thousands of UK citizens stranded abroad to return home to their families.


There will be plenty of time for a post mortem of what has happened
Willie Walsh, British Airways

"We will of course continue to monitor the situation closely; as we have said throughout safety is our primary concern," he added.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: "Labour must immediately commit to a full inquiry into this fiasco, which has caused so much travel misery and billions of pounds of economic damage.

"Six days into the crisis, we're suddenly told that there are actually levels of ash which are compatible with safe flying. The question angry passengers and airlines are already asking is why the government hadn't worked this out before the crisis occurred."

After the lifting of the restrictions, the first British Airways flight to touch down from Heathrow was a service already in the air from Vancouver, which landed shortly before 2200 BST.

The airline's chief executive Willie Walsh said he was pleased with the decision, but said it would take weeks to get back to normal levels of operation.

"We're now at British Airways going to start the difficult task of getting our stranded customers back home but I think this is an airlift that is unprecedented but we will make every effort to get our people back home."



He said "lessons can be learned" and added: "There will be plenty of time for a post-mortem of what has happened over the last few days."

He said parts of the UK airspace could have been opened several days ago. "My personal belief is that we could have safely continued operating for a period of time. I think there were occasions when the decision to close airspace could have been justified."

EasyJet said it planned to resume "some services across the UK and continental Europe from tomorrow morning," but added that the level of disruption meant it would be several days before the schedule returned to normal.

Flights have been grounded across the UK and much of Europe since Thursday following the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull.

The eruption sent vast amounts of ash into the atmosphere which poses a threat to aircraft jet engines.

Despite the lifting of the ban, it will be some time before flights return to normal.

The UK Border Agency warned people to expect queues as staff attempt to process large numbers of returning travellers.

A spokesman said: "We are manning as many passport desks as possible."

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Some Flights Take Off But New Ash Cloud Causing Uncertainty

Some domestic flights are taking off in the UK, as airports begin to reopen after five days without flights because of the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland.

The first planes from Edinburgh and Glasgow both headed for Stornaway after 0700 BST - among a handful of internal flights scheduled from Scotland.

But Nats said a new ash cloud was causing uncertainty and there was now a worsening situation in some areas.

Belfast Airport said it hoped to start flights to Scotland from 1000 BST.

It said if it got the go ahead from Nats, a Flybe flight to Glasgow would leave at 1015 BST.

Although Scottish airspace is open most of the flights are said to be to destinations elsewhere in Scotland.


The first international flight from Glasgow is due to head for Reykjavik in Iceland at midday.

Schedules are constantly changing and passengers have been advised not to travel to airports until they have checked with their airline or tour operator.

At Glasgow, there was only a trickle of passengers checking in for the Stornoway flight, which carried about 30 passengers.

Some of the check-in desks were staffed, but had no queues. A flight from Aberdeen to Newcastle was set to depart at 0825 BST. Flights from Newcastle are expected to head to Aberdeen and the Isle of Man.

illustration of volcanic ash dispersion up to 20,000 ft, issued at 7 am on 20 April. Advisory charts are issued every six hours, for up to 18 hours ahead, by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.

illustration of volcanic ash dispersion up to 20,000 ft, issued at 7 am on 20 April. Advisory charts are issued every six hours, for up to 18 hours ahead, by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.


Britain’s flight ban to be LIFTED tomorrow!

  • Scottish airspace to open at 6am, Midlands at 12pm, South at 6pm
  • Still 150,000 Britons stranded abroad, thousands miss school and work
  • Heathrow ramps up security amid fears of passenger deluge

The blanket ban on flying to and from the UK will be lifted as early as 6am tomorrow, airport sources revealed this afternoon.

Scottish airspace will reopen first, followed by the Midlands around midday and airports in the South at around 6pm.

A statement is expected later this afternoon but the news will come as a massive relief to the thousands of British travellers stranded abroad - although the backlog of flights is likely to take days to clear.

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How Long Will The Iceland Volcanic Ash Cloud last?

Scientists are struggling to work out if the eruption itself could continue for days, weeks or even months.

But, as Professor Jon Davidson - an earth scientist from the University of Durham - told BBC News, it was not the eruption per se that caused the problem.

"It's the fact that the prevailing winds are driving the ash plume over the UK," he explained.

And scientists in Iceland reported on Friday morning that the volcano was continuing to generate a tall plume of ash - contributing to the cloud already drifting high in the atmosphere over the UK.

So the cloud that has grounded UK flights appears to be continuing to grow. And the researchers say that could go on for several days.

Dr David Rothery, a volcanologist from the UK's Open University agrees this could happen, but suggests that it is unlikely.

Intense and explosive

"It is usual that an explosive eruption like this has its most intensive point at the start and that it gradually subsides," he told BBC News.

What scientists are trying to find out, he explained, is if the [ongoing] eruption is explosive enough to create a tall column of ash and continue feeding the plume.

It is the explosion that initially forces the ash upward - expanding gas at the eruption site generates thrust. From there, the cloud of dust and gas rises because it is warmer than the surrounding air.

So if the eruption continues to be intense and explosive, giving the ash that initial upward thrust, the plume that has been blown in UK and European airspace could continue to grow.

But according to the most recent reports from the UK Met Office and the Icelandic Met Service, ash is now being released in pulses rather than a continuous plume.

Unpredictable eruption

Professor Davidson said that there was no way to reliably predict how the Eyjafjallajokull volcano will behave.

"This eruption started on 20 March," he said. "So in a sense it's been erupting already for almost a month.

"We will be watching the seismic activity because [from that] we will be able to see the predictions in changes in the behaviour of the volcano that will herald an increase or decrease in its activity."

And currently, there appears to be far less seismic activity in Iceland than in the days running up to Wednesday's eruption. This could mean that the worst is over.

But researchers in Iceland, who have analysed the first sample of ash produced by the volcano, have found that its composition could contribute to the explosiveness of future eruptions.

"The magma is much richer in silicon than the basalt that was previously erupting in the initial stages," explained Dr Mike Burton, senior volcanologist at the Italian National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology.

"This has two important implications. Firstly, the ash produced will be finer, with smaller particles compared with basalt."

Finer ash will rise more easily.

Secondly, he said, "the activity may well be more explosive because of the higher viscosity of the magma."

The more viscous the magma, the less easily gas flows through it. "Therefore it's easier for pressure build up to occur, leading to more violent explosions."

Through Thursday and Friday, the volcano has continued to feed an existing large plume of ash that is moving very slowly eastward at a height of about 30,000ft.

Aviation authorities cannot risk reinstating flights when this plume is within airspace, as the ash could clog jet engines and cause them to fail.

Jim Haywood, a researcher from the Met Office confirmed on Friday that he and his colleagues had detected the plume above the UK.

"It's patchy but it's certainly there, although you won't see it with the naked eye," he said.

"We are formulating some forecasts about how long this may last, but that will be very dependent on the eruption from the volcano, so we're working closely with scientists in Iceland to get the most up to date information about the eruption height and intensity."

The UK is enduring a fourth day as a virtual no-fly zone due to volcanic ash drifting from Iceland, leaving Britons stranded around the world.

The UK is enduring a fourth day as a virtual no-fly zone due to volcanic ash drifting from Iceland, leaving Britons stranded around the world.

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