The mighty BN-2A Trislander descends to an airstrip on the English Channel Island of Alderney. Photo by neilsingapore.
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You know it’s going to be a mental night out when youths start throwing stones at your train as you head into Cardiff. I’ve made the journey many times before, but this was something different. On arrival in queen street station I walked up towards the castle, where I’d planned to meet Luke, before reaching half as far a mad woman in an orange wig flies out of ‘Glo Bar’, rollerblading around the street to the ‘cancan’ tune, much to the delight of the men in the club. Baffled by the goings on I meet Luke and we finally reach the welsh club. We were early and joked how awkward the room seemed as it slowly began to fill…
Eyjafjallajokull, sounds like something a four year old would type when let loose on a keyboard. Over the past 5 days the unpronounceable volcano in the south of Iceland has caused some of the busiest airspace in the world to shut, not even 9/11 caused such a clamp down. Thousands of cancelled flights have left millions of people stranded worldwide, crowds of which are desperately searching for different ways to reach home, and many others forced to cancel holiday plans.
But is this all justified? I myself know many people stranded in Latvia, South Africa even as far away as Australia. It is certainly proving a very problematic issue, and one that may stay around for a while…
Over the weekend the ever expanding cloud reached as far south as northern Spain, and westerly into parts of Russia and now stretches across the Atlantic, tickling the Canadian coastline. In the middle of all this is the UK, where flights in or out of London’s Heathrow, one of the words busiest airports, have not taken place since noon on the 15th of April.
This is a major headache for the airline industry, which is also recovering from the recession; the profit loss from so many grounded aircraft as well as the costs for accommodation for stranded passengers could be enough to send airlines over the edge. It’s almost inevitable we will see some carriers going bust before soon. British Airways and KLM have both have flown test flights (without passengers) and reported no problems or damage to their aircraft. With increasing impatience, they claim the closure of such large swaths of airspace to be an overreaction, and although there is a hazard, limited service should resume with caution.
Unlike normal weather systems, clouds of volcanic ash can not be picked up by aircrafts weather radar, this makes it impossible to detect and fly around any clusters of ash that might occur. The material it self appears very fine and silk like, but to an airliner flying at 600mph it’s a very coarse material that scratches the windscreens, reducing the pilots vision, as well as eating away at the paint on the leading edges. Of course, the biggest threat can be found in the engines, where the ash sucked through the air intakes melts due to the extreme temperatures, before solidifying and sticking to the cooler parts of the engine. This will cause flame outs (engine failures) and to an aircraft flying at 30,000ft can prove catastrophic. Though the concentration of ‘muck’ material above the UK and rest of Europe are unclear, some claim the hazardous material is to dispersed and diluted to pose a real danger to aircraft.
However, one or two successful flights in the affected skies only proves there are patches where the ash is not concentrated enough to effect an aircraft on one single flight. This doesn’t determine that there are not areas with a more intense quantity of ash; neither does it show the problems that might occur when aircraft fly through the cloud for a number of flights and a prolonged period of time.
This is the reason why safety must come before profit, in reality it can be perceived as a matter of life or death.
In my opinion, the prospect of saving one flight from disaster far outweighs the chaos and problems caused by the grounding of so many flights. Indeed I more than sympathise with those affected by the travel bedlam and hope to see things return to normal as soon as possible. Finger crossed.
(image source: www.heraldscotland.com)
Over the past few months I’ve become increasingly aware of the Blogging world, and it’s ever growing comunity. I’ve decided to join the band wagon, throw myself out there into the world of writing a blog.
Amidst plenty of other thoughts, I hope my climbing adventures and flying experiances give me plenty to write about… and hopefully something interesting for you to read.