“Not again!” That was surely the reaction among recent travelers to/from airports in Ireland, Scotland, and even some parts of Northern England upon finding that, once again, flights had to be canceled for a brief period due to airborne ash from that Eyjafjallajökull Icelandic volcano. In the meantime, Scottish government officials issued predictably annoyed statements aimed at the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority for taking such action, just like on a larger scale it had been loud complaints from all across the affected area that had hastened the lifting of the continent-wide flight ban that paralyzed air travel within Europe for more than a week last month.
Central to the European complaints had been assertions that the flight-bans were too extreme, that the ash really did not pose enough of a danger to justify the considerable economic damage that the bans caused – after all, a number of airlines actually went ahead and flew test-flights on their own responsibility (manned only by crews and observers, of course) up into the grit-cloud and everything seemed fine. Now the Czech business newspaper Hospodářské noviny reports on how Europe’s scientific community is finally getting its act together with some direct research aimed at setting firm norms for when it’s safe to fly in volcano ash, and when it is not. (more…)