herald

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Grounded again but not for long

FEARS: Volcanic ash could cause further problems for flyers

Passengers at Dublin Airport were due back in the air today after flights were initially grounded this morning.

At 8am today the Irish Aviation Authority cleared Irish airspace to resume flights as initial fears over volcanic ash dissipated.

It had initially been feared that airports here could be closed for the rest of the week as the cloud returned to Ireland due to northerly winds.

In a statement that caused a massive sigh of relief for Irish and international air travellers, the Volcanic Ash Advice Centre said airspace here was relatively clear.

"Current information from the VAAC confirms this information. We expect operations to be normal at all Irish airports for the rest of today," it said.

"Ireland will not fall within the predicted area of ash concentrations that exceed acceptable engine manufacturer tolerance levels."

Countering any criticisms of over-reaction, the VAAC said that it had no choice but to order this morning's lockdown.

"Our decision to close earlier today was based solely on the safety risks to crews and passengers as a result of the drift south of the volcanic ash cloud caused by the northeasterly winds.

"The situation will be reviewed as the week goes on. Winds are forecast to continue coming from a northerly direction for the next few days and this could lead to further problems."

There will be a further update on the IAA website at 8pm tonight.

In Dublin Airport and across the country the post bank-holiday blues had set in as all aircraft were grounded from early morning as air travel in Ireland and parts of Scotland.

It was first believed that a huge ash cloud was hovering at 20,000ft over the country.

Met Eireann warned that current weather conditions could mean it was possible there could be disruption to flights until Friday. A band of high pressure to the west, coupled with northerly winds, means that the plume is unlikely to drift away from Irish airspace over the next 48 hours.

But a Met Eireann spokeswoman said two high-pressure systems were building over Iceland and Scandinavia which could move the ash later in the week.

Announcing the closure of Irish airspace, the Irish Aviation Authority last night imposed a ban on all travel between 7am and 1 pm today.

Air passengers along with airlines, the tourism industry, taxi drivers and many businesses today were dreading the expected updates throughout today from the Irish Aviation Authority, which has the ultimate say in whether Irish airspace is opened or closed

More than 400 flights were due in and out of Dublin Airport alone today, involving more than 50,000 passengers.

The move comes after flights over Europe were hit by a six-day shutdown last month.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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