View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Back to normal?

Since 10pm this evening, all airports in the United Kingdom have been reopened to flights. The Civil Aviation Authority has issued guidance, stating that it is now safe to reopen British airspace. This comes after a reassessment of the risk, posed by volcanic ash, to aircraft engines. Engine manufacturers have said that lower levels of ash do not pose a substantial risk to engines.

This advice was issued as a dozen British Airways flights were headed east across the Atlantic towards the UK. The airlines have been clamouring since the weekend for a reassessment of the risk posed by the ash - a reassessment they have now got. I find it very strange that 6 hours after almost all UK airports were closed, they are now suddenly back to normal. Well, up to a point. I feel that BA (and other airlines) have leaned on the regulatory authorities to shift the goalposts in their favour. Yes, it was also imperative to sort out this mess for the sake of 150,000 British travellers stuck overseas, faced with days of travelling, mounting expenses etc.

It will take a fair number of days for the backlog to be cleared, of people wishing to return to the UK and of people wishing to depart overseas. It is just as well that the weather patterns over the Atlantic are shifting, with the wind veering to the southwest later this week.

Tuesday 20 April

April showers are the order of the day here, with rain, hail, snow and the kitchen-sink coming down at regular intervals. The ferry was nearly an hour late coming in at 1.50pm (usually 1pm), and it's just leaving port on its way back to Ullapool on the mainland.

Stornoway Airport was open this morning, and was the busiest airport in the country for a while. It is closing as I type, after a flight bound for Aberdeen, takes off. Observations across the UK still show one or two layers of ash in the atmosphere at altitudes up to about 16,000 feet. It bears out the continued closure of UK airspace today. The blustering from airlines that it was all on over-reaction has been proven incorrect, as several NATO jets returned to base with damage to their engines after flying through the ash-cloud.

The poor people of Iceland are not very popular in the UK, what after the 1970s cod war, the collapse of banks in the island state with billions of savers' deposit in it and now volcanic ash. To quote a newspaper editor on Sky TV last night: we want your cash, not your ash.