After Grimsvotn

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano last year, Iceland (Image Courtesy NASA Earth Observatory)

After the Icelandic volcano, Grimsvotn, decided to make life difficult for travellers this week including scaring bank holidaymakers that they might be affected, life is back to normal. The media went to town on the first day with almost blanket coverage on the news channels. It seems there were only two stories across the two days. And Barack Obama came a poor second on them.
But have we learnt anything from it? Will disruption like 2010 occur or do we know more?
We know that the new requirements that say when planes can fly reduced the impact. We know that” those who advise” need to look at measuring the thickness and density of the ash as early as they can since the ash was thinner than anticipated and lower than the level at which most planes fly. We know that it is safer than previously thought for aircraft to fly below thick clouds of ash. These are the positives.
The negatives include knowing that if this happens again – as it inevitably will – there will be disruption but less. Just as in other eruptions in Indonesia and Japan this year, flights will be cancelled because fewer planes will be allowed to use the same airspace. We know the CAA needs to explain why its single plane wasn’t able to get into the sky and use monitoring equipment. And why we couldn’t have two planes or lease another so that there was a fallback. So far the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, doesn’t seem to have answered this.
We could do with an update from easyJet and Dr Fred Prata of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) on how the development of their measurement system that was announced a year ago. There wasn’t much news of it during this week just the statement in mid-April calling on airlines to work together and stating that they needed to test the system, AVOID, during ash. Did they? And what results were there?
We also know that the ridiculous EU edict that makes airlines responsible for passengers despite this being clearly defined as an Act of God, needs reform. Let airlines and airports be brought to book throughout their own inadequacies and negligence but it seems grossly unfair to blame them for anything they cannot control.
And there is one last positive. After the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull last year, visitors to Iceland to see that volcano, increased. They may do so again as the curious want to explore this sight that has caused so much trouble. So the Icelanders will be happy for the extra tourist money. I wonder whether they have cracked the formula to cause volcanoes to erupt just when a tourist boost is required?

image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory

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