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The state is not your friend… Aviation Edition

So is the closure of Europe and Britain’s airspace really needed to ensure safety?

‘We simply checked every single aircraft very carefully after the landing in Frankfurt to see whether there was any damage that could have been caused by volcanic ash,” Weber said. ”Not the slightest scratch was found on any of the 10 planes.”

German air traffic control said Air Berlin and Condor had carried out similar flights.


Air Berlin Chief Executive Joachim Hunold declared himself ”amazed” that the results of the German airlines’ flights ”did not have any influence whatsoever on the decisions taken by the aviation safety authorities.”

Quelle surprise!

14 comments to The state is not your friend… Aviation Edition

  • Frank S

    Since this seems to be the season for enquiries, how about one into the Met Office and its modelling. We have already had gross exaggeration on climate, and gross incompetence on seasonal forecasting. We have also had ‘path of least regret’ short-range forecasting by which now it is usually safe to assume gross exaggerations of bad weather event forecasts. I wonder if we have also had gross exaggerations of the extent and composition of the dust over Europe. I wonder also at the wisdom of putting a green political agitator in charge of the Met Office.

  • Elaine

    Check out pprune.org (the professional pilots rumour network). They are asking why they can’t simply fly under the ash. I haven’t read the whole thread (it’s now 60 pages) but it seems that some pilots are questioning the wisdom of grounding all aircraft.

  • On the UK met office site you can see the satellite tracking of the plume every 30 minutes. When UK air traffic was grounded there didn’t seem to be any plume over the UK. Also on the TV news last night there was an interview with a stranded passenger outside a terminal and the sky behind him was bright blue. Didn’t look like any ash to me.
    Something smells here but we shouldn’t point the finger at conspiracy just a bunch of jobsworths doing the absolute safest thing (for their jobs) regardless of the cost to anyone else.
    There needs to be an enquiry into this as I have no doubt some companies and individuals will go broke as a result of this improper risk analysis.

  • f0ul

    I understand that ash is a killer if it gets in the airflow of a jet engine – but I also understand that helicopters and small aircraft are not effected – hence they are flying as normal.

    I know that I would not take a plane which is planning on flying at 20K+ feet for any money and it makes sense for the major airlines to ground themselves for this reason.

    However there must be a market for at least a planefull of people who don’t mind the risk and I wonder if its time people were allowed to have a personal insurance clause which allowed them to bypass company risk assessments? It could work!

  • tranio

    It looks like there is no ash from Cornwall west. Why can’t the planes from Heathrow fly low for an hour and then go up to their regular cruising altitudes.

  • RAB

    This all gets more ludicrous by the hour doesn’t it folks.
    I live in Bristol, we have clear blue skies, there are no spectacular sunsets or blue moons. My friend a taxi driver is going broke because he works mainly to the airport. The produce of our friends in Africa and elsewhere are rotting in the heat for the want of a plane to make them some money, Dan Snow is showing the Dunkirk spirit and the French are going all Vichy again.
    Insane, just bloody insane!

  • Nuke Gray

    The reason is simple- if they ground all the planes now, no bureaucrats’ jobs will be lost due to civilian casualties, or royal commissions! The loss of jobs in the private sector is not their concern, but saving lives is. Doubtlessly, a total ban will save lives, AND no-one will be able to sue them on that basis, as well. Blame the lawyers who try to sue everyone for everything- public servants probably feel they need to act this way in an emergency.

  • guy herbert

    Nuke Gray,

    “Doubtlessly, a total ban will save lives,” or, more to the point, no-one will be able to prove it didn’t. Cf. the idiocies of airport pseudo-security when people are allowed to fly at all. Or REACH bans on chemical use.

    This is another classic illustration of the power of virtual risk combined with the absolute risk aversion of bureaucrats. There is no cost to the banners from banning things – indeed there are benefits, since it can be exhibited as showing the need for banners.

    The story of the virtual benefit to the public in countering the virtual risk is a simple one, backed by dramatic anecdote. Meanwhile all the costs of bans are borne by dispersed parties who suffer in different and complicated ways.

  • Chuckles

    I am sure that all of the people making the decisions are ‘highly conscious of their carbon footprint’, and ‘keen to make a difference for mother Gaia’ etc so an easy decision to make.

    More interesting are the lounge pachyderms, and the wonderfully named ‘London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre’. I’m sure we all have one tucked away for those appropriate occasions.



  • Daveon… I think we all understand that if you fly into a dense cloud of particulate matter it will cause damage, but the KLM/Air Berlin tests showed that over most of Europe the density was in fact trivial.

  • This has smelled like an arse covering overreaction right from the start. Government buggering up industry because of the precautionary principle…sounds familiar.

    Thanks for that pprune.org link, Elaine. I suggested flying under the ash a couple of days ago, now I can read up about whether it is feasible (or even necessary).

  • Chuckles

    I am afraid that satire is dead – Live Coverage of the Ash Cloud Here: