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It’s lucky for European air travel that the government of Europe is still a muddle

I’m watching the news, in particular the news that the airplanes will be allowed to fly again over Britain. Thank goodness.

Inevitably, a professorial head popped up – Professor Hayward was the name, I think – to argue that what had been revealed was that there were problems with who was in charge. Yes, it must have been the same Professor Hayward as the one quoted in this story. He described the muddle of different jurisdictions – with one Euro-quango governing this, and another that, and France and the UK actually, to quite a large extent – sniff – controlling their own airspace. I don’t know what the Professor really thinks about this, but he or the TV editors made it sound like he thought there ought to be one Euro-authority in charge of everything. There should be, that is to say, a Single European Sky. Recent events, he said, highlighted the fact that there is a muddle of different jurisdictions, when it comes to whether airplanes can fly or not.

And a good thing too. Thanks to that muddle of different European jurisdictions, some planes have been flying over Europe, including one KLM plane which this afternoon flew over London. And the ban is melting away, for all the world as if Europe was still governed by a gaggle of sovereign states, each in charge of its own affairs. No planes have so far dropped out the sky. They didn’t put it like that, but if a plane has fallen out of the sky, they would definitely have said. As more planes have taken to the air, the claim that flying in them is a death sentence becomes harder and harder to accept.

Had European airspace been commanded by a single despot, as will surely be argued by many others besides that Professor in the next few days and weeks, this disaster might have lingered on indefinitely, at a cost (and never let it be forgotten that economic disruption on this scale is, for quite a large number of severely stressed and severely impoverished, severely financially ruined people, a matter of life and death) which would have defied calculation.

Now Paxman is talking about pressure from “vested interests”. Airlines wanting to stay in business, in other words, airlines who have become convinced that this scare has been massively overdone. Airlines who prefer to pay attention to evidence of what is actually happening in the sky, rather than trusting mere computer models. Computer models are getting a rather bad name these day, aren’t they?

If, now that the ban is being lifted, planes do start crashing for mysterious reasons, or if the aircraft maintenance people start to detect the damage that they now say is non-existent in the planes that have already flown, then fine. Ground the planes again. But I’d be amazed if that happened. Airlines know better than anyone that plane crashes must be avoided at almost any cost. It is clear that they think that the risk of crashes now is negligible, for the reasons alluded to in this earlier posting here.

I hope that Simon Jenkins’s phrase, health and safety Armageddon, catches on. My thanks to EU Referendum for the link to that piece, and in general for being all over this story.

But, note that North is today defending the Met Office. North implies that the problem is that muddle of jurisdictions, which has enabled the European commission to evade its responsibility for this mess and heep all the blame on the Met Office. I see what he means, of course I do. But which would you prefer? A muddle of jurisdictions, with all the inevitable buck passing and mutual recrimination, plus pressure from vested interests, and from politicians trying to get re-elected, and derision from bloggers, and by and by from the mainstream media, in short the semblance of a still-free society? Or a pristine tyranny, willing and able to be totally wrong, indefinitely, rather than admit to the embarrassment of being wrong? Widespread panic for a few days? Or, total panic for weeks or months on end, that refuses even to admit that this was what it was? I know which I prefer.

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8 comments to It’s lucky for European air travel that the government of Europe is still a muddle

  • Nuke Gray

    You realise, of course, that if ALL flights were permanently banned, you’d have complete air safety! Do it for the kids!!! Or Santa Claus will curse you!

  • cubanbob

    When the planes do not go falling out of the sky this particular crises will prove once and for all the when it comes to models garbage in garbage out. If the model can be this wrong about volcanic ash then next question will be how can anyone trust the AGW models?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Good point, Brian. I see that the Tories have been criticising the handling of this matter, and on the BBC Breakfast show this morning, some character from the Lib-Dems (cannot recall his name) accused the Tories of “gloating” over the issue. No doubt the Lib-Dem would prefer it if we left all these matters to Grand People In Charge. Sheesh.

    The issue of control over airspace and so on can be tricky, but no trickier than how maritime nations agree on issues such as the control of shipping lanes, navigation, etc. A “muddled” system has often worked quite well. The idea that we would need some global control is just the usual Tranzi power-grab in action.

  • Stev Robilon

    yea friends it is a great think where you had shared information regarding European air travel.
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  • False choice, Brian. The problem stems from a flawed contingency plan that was put into action … for which no one will now accept responsibility. In the “old days”, we had ministers, who took responsibility for such things … and occasionally resigned when things went wrong. Now, with so many agencies involved, they simply pass the buck.

  • Frank S

    It is indeed a blessing that the EU was so shambolic. May that continue until we get out of it.

    I also hope that other European Met Offices will get stuck in, no holds barred, into the UK Met Office’s naive use of computer models, unrestrained it would seem, by real observations.

    This of course is a microcosm of the same approach with computer models for climate: naive, unrestrained by the real data they cannot mimic, and with their forecasts contradicted by observations, they nevertheless serve to bamboozle politicians who seem to see them as some mighty brains. Scientists of course see them as dumb computer models, highly sensitive to a plethora of parameters set by the operators.

  • Minekiller

    The RAF seemed to regard the skies over Europe as fairly open, although a tad hazardous, when they were remodelling Germany a few years back.

  • Jerry

    Among those of us ‘in the business’, computer business that is, who still work on real systems, not desktop toys, so called ‘models’ have never been held in high esteem.
    They dazzle only those who are ignorant of how they are created.
    But but but the COMPUTER SAYS ……………………….
    Yeah, right.
    I can make one say 2+2=5 ( or 1 or 6 or blueberry muffin) but that doesn’t make it true.
    Oh, models are also useful to politicians needing to bamboozle large numbers of easily bamboozled people!!